After a comprehensive review that included considerable public input, Henrico County’s Douglas S. Freeman High School will retire its “Rebels” nickname. A committee of community members, students and staff voted to recommend the change after analyzing community input collected in June and July. The school administration will work with the community in coming months to choose a new mascot for the school.
“Following several months of listening, dialogue, and careful reflection with the help of a thoughtful and passionate committee, there is no need to wait,” said John Marshall, Douglas Freeman principal, in a letter emailed to members of the school community. “It is clear that now is the time to retire the ‘Rebels’ mascot, to leave it as a part of our history and not carry it into our future. We will adopt a new symbol that better represents our school as a forward-thinking, inclusive, welcoming place for all students.
“Now that this decision has been made the best thing to do for our school and students is to focus all of our energies into reuniting as a family. We have been a model in so many ways for many years, academically, athletically, and this summer, a model for how to have a civil dialogue within our family. It’s now time to show the world how a family comes together after an impassioned disagreement. I ask this for the benefit of our students and school. I can think of no better example of putting school over self than rallying behind something we disagree with because it is better for others.”
The full text of Marshall’s message about the decision is available at https://www.freemanmascot.info.
Marshall also announced the creation of the “Freeman Forward Fund” in partnership with the Henrico Education Foundation. The fund will build school culture and support long-term efforts to promote inclusivity and innovation. Members of the public can donate to the fund by going to https://bit.ly/33oNrqu.
Once a new mascot is determined, the school will hold a fall “spirit-wear swap” where students can trade in Rebels gear for items with the new nickname.
Marshall announced in June that the school would conduct the school-based review of the name, in cooperation with Henrico County Public Schools’ superintendent and School Board.
The review process drew more than 2,000 comments, including around 1,500 responses through an online form. The input also included emails, social media posts, handwritten notes, voicemails, videos and an online panel discussion on the topic.
While the school has used the Rebels name since it opened in 1954, it has not used a visual mascot for many years, instead opting for an interlocking “DSF” logo.
The school is named for Douglas Southall Freeman, a Richmond historian, author and journalist. While Freeman won Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of both Robert E. Lee and George Washington, the school’s nickname was likely inspired by his Confederate subjects.