Anaheim’s Savanna High School to Get New “Rebel” Mascot

Jill Replogle/KPCC

A mural of Johnny Rebel on the Savanna High School gymnasium.

Savanna High School’s “Johnny Rebel” mascot will change after the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees voted Monday night to come up with a new image and remove references to the Confederacy from school symbols.

Students still will call themselves the rebels but the district will replace the mascot, which currently is a Confederate soldier.

The change will cost the district an estimated $51,000, largely to repaint the school gym and another mural which includes a small Confederate flag, according to Superintendent Michael Matsuda.

The board’s vote comes amid a national debate over whether public symbols and statues honoring icons of the former Confederacy should be removed.

The Savanna debate was sparked by several students who approached the Board of Trustees in October calling for the removal of the mascot.

At a special board meeting Monday night, more than two dozen people spoke to the board, including students, parents and alumni.

Matthew Thomas, an African American student and senior at Savanna, said the mascot is disrespectful to him and other people of color.

“After learning who Savanna’s mascot is, it made me want to change schools,” Thomas said. “I do not want to cheer or represent a mascot with that kind of meaning.”

Glenda Flora, a graduate of the class of 1963 that voted for the original mascot, said students in her class never saw Johnny Rebel as a racist symbol.

“I’m really disappointed because everything has gotten so blown out of proportion,” Flora said. “We never thought of it as being racist or involving the Confederacy…we were thinking, it was the rebels, it was the 60s, it fit in with us.”

Cynthia Do, a student at Savanna, was among those who supported the “rebranding.”

“The mascot only has a meaning if we give it a meaning,” Do said.

The board’s 4-1 vote – Trustee Katherine Smith abstained citing concerns about costs – follows a school-wide vote in which 56 percent of Savanna students voted to “rebrand” the mascot, 26 percent voted to keep it as-is, and 18 percent voted to remove the mascot entirely.

The vote followed a week-long discussion in the school’s social studies classes about the mascot, as part of a civic learning initiative called California Democracy School project.

Over the course of a week, students conducted academic research on Confederate monuments and participated in discussions before eventually voting.

Savannah Rangel, a senior at Savanna High, was among the students who originally called on the board to change the mascot.

“I think it’s a good compromise. It’s not what I wanted but for the people who wanted to keep it [the term Rebel] I understand where they’re coming from,” Rangel said.

Matsuda said the school’s students demonstrated how democracy should work.

“I think the take away is that public schools can have relevant discussions about controversial issues,” Matsuda said.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • Militant Angeleno

    Keep the name, but redesign the mascot to be a Star Wars rebel instead.

  • verifiedsane

    Next Yosemite Sam, then Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the rest of the Founding Fathers…Then the Constitution. The taking of an eraser to history will not stop…This isn’t just insane diversity and the chasing ghost…it’s Stalinist Russian Communism…Does the Left really want a modern day civil war…because that where we are headed….

  • Sir Louie

    It looks stupid and considering CA had little to nothing to do with the south, it makes no sense –other than a feeble play on the city of Savannah.
    This isn’t a small thing. Symbols mean a great deal, especially when we hold them up to be respected and loved. A symbol of slavery isn’t one of those, and good on a more enlightened generation for making the change. Those who can’t stand it –you’ll be gone soon enough.

    • verifiedsane

      Another politically correct idiot & anarchist diversity soldier babbling away with complete non-sense and zero understanding of history…Notice how these socialist/communist never miss an opportunity to slip in a Hitler reference completely out of context in their ignorant displays of regurgitated propaganda…

      Huey Long in 1935 –
      “When Fascism comes to America, it will (be in the name of/come under the guise of/be called) anti-Fascism!”

    • Tanker Mike

      California had quite a lot to do with the South and the Confederacy, especially this region of California. The commanding General of troops in California, Albert Sydney Johnston, (look him up he was one of the South’s most gifted generals) resigned his commission and was escorted through running battles in Arizona and New Mexico to Texas by the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles, a California Confederate militia unit that included the Hispanic sheriff of Los Angeles County. Riverside/San Bernardino was heavily sympathetic to the Confederacy and supplied troops to their cause.
      Diversity?
      More Hispanic Americans and Native Americans served the Confederacy than served the Union.

  • LFOldTimer

    Such silliness. A southern squabble has now invaded the north. Most kids look at the Rebel as a cartoon character. People have to stop taking themselves so seriously. The entire society is on verge of a nervous breakdown. Chill.

    And teach the kids that the civil war was mostly over economics and the north bullying the south. But that wouldn’t be politically correct.

    If the Ca public school administrators spent more time solving their academic problems so the kids could read, write and do math problems and not score near the bottom in nationalized testing maybe they’d have a chance in life.

    • ryan.

      Yeah, the north bullied the south to not own humans. Cartoon or not, the likeness he is based upon has been seized by a bunch of self-oppressed white people, so it’s not as innocent as it once was and it’s time to go.

      • LFOldTimer

        Good Lord.

        You must have been asleep during US History class in high school. Either that or you’re a common core grad.

        The library is your friend.

        • verifiedsane

          Our society is so dumb-ed down and indoctrinated in leftist propaganda…I believe we have gone past the point of no return…I’m completely astounded by the hate, intolerance, and staggering lack of discernment put on display constantly by the snowflake crowd…

        • ryan.

          So if I’m getting your logic because the North had slaves as well then a small city on the other side of the country should keep their mascot 140 years after the end of the war? I did miss that lesson in history class (probably skipped to go smoke reefers right!?).

          • LFOldTimer

            George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson and General Ulysses S. Grant all owned slaves.

            Do you want to tear down all their statutes and force all high schools in America who are named after these renown American leaders to change their names?

            Answer the question.