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'If not now, when?': T.F. South drops Rebels nickname
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'If not now, when?': T.F. South drops Rebels nickname

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The Thornton Fractional South High School band marches in the Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce's 45th Annual Good Neighbor Parade in 2012. Over the year, Thornton Fractional District 215 has removed Confederate imagery from TF South's identity. The District 215 board voted Tuesday to remove the school's Rebels nickname.

LANSING — Thornton Fractional South High School removed the Confederate flag from school imagery in the mid-1990s. Its Confederate soldier mascot was eliminated in the mid-2000s.

Last night, the Thornton Fractional District 215 Board of Education took its final step in stripping the school of its Confederate references by voting to drop the school's Rebels nickname, effective immediately.

The District 215 Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday night to dissolve the Rebels nickname that has been associated with the Lansing, Illinois, high school since its founding in 1958.

"With everything happening in our country at the present time, it definitely seemed to me the time was right to consider this question," board member Richard Dust said. "If not now, when?"

The school first embraced Confederate imagery in its name and mascot upon the school's creation in the late 1950s when the TF South high school "seceded" from the district's North campus, according to a district news release.

That reference, intended as a pun, found its way into the school's imagery through a Confederate soldier, battle flag and Rebels nickname.

While all other Confederate references were struck from the school years ago, the Rebels name remained.

A TF South student first challenged the name in 2017, according to the district. The student, Mia Pettigrew, wrote an essay in her government class calling for the removal of the Rebels name and shared her writing with then-Superintendent Creg Williams.

This June, the District 215 board voted to survey TF South students on if they would support a change to the name.

TF South Principal Jake Gourley distributed the survey, which shared the school's own history and pointed to a national moment of reckoning which has led teams across the country to reconsider names that "have historically racists origins or connotations."

MIKE CLARK: It's time for TF South to retire the Rebel nickname

The survey — sent to all active TF South students, including the sophomore, junior and senior classes of 2020-21 — received responses from 325 students, accounting for about 25% of those contacted, according to the district.

Of those who responded, nearly 70% supported changing the Rebels name.

The board resolution adopted Tuesday night sets a goal of promoting inclusivity and acknowledges the origins of the Rebels name as a reference to the Confederacy, which carries imagery associated with racism.

"Thornton Fractional High School District 215 is committed to an overall culture of equity with the guiding principle of learning environments that are welcoming, positive and inclusive, where all students and stakeholders feel a sense of belonging and purpose in school," the resolution states.

The Tuesday night meeting comes following the district's recent adoption of an Equity Plan of Action setting goals to ensure equitable education among all students. The district's board also recently adopted a resolution on racial justice and voted to establish an Equity Student Leadership Club.

Thornton Fractional District 215 to reopen virtually for first quarter of school year

Next steps in selecting a new TF South nickname are likely to be discussed in the District 215 board's Sept. 9 Committee of the Whole meeting.

School officials will conduct a walk-through of the TF South building "in the next week or so" to identify and prioritize the removal of the Rebels name throughout the school, a district spokeswoman said.

Gallery: How do NWI school reentry plans compare?

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