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A slight change in opinion on Rebel issue

June 4, 2009

First, I want to express my great pleasure in seeing that Walpole Times reporter Keith Ferguson chose to ask all School Committee candidates whether they would favor discussing changing the Rebel name.  Only one of the three candidates definitively stated that he would not vote to change it: Bill Buckley.  I respect Mr. Buckley a great deal, and I understand his argument that the Rebel name was chosen in the 1960s, while the unfortunate Confederate connection came later.  I am assuming that Mr. Buckley is implying that he does not condone the outrageous behavior among some students of waving the Confederate flag at football games.  Dot Bergen also stated that it is outside the realm of the school committee’s work to discuss such a name change.  Ms. Bergen is partially correct, as the School Committee can certainly entertain the Rebel issue, but it is the Walpole High School community, I feel, that will make the ultimate decision on whether to change the name.  I also appreciate Brian Walsh’s stance on the Rebel issue, saying that such arguments can be heard by the School Committee, but essentially there would be no guarantee there would be any action on the issue.  Each of the candidates’ answers to Keith’s question were clearly well thought out.

Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak with many Walpole residents and chat with Walpole High students and teachers about this controversial issue.  I have also had the opportunity to observe the thread at WalpoleNews.com regarding the Rebel issue.  It is very clear that Walpole will not give up the Rebel name without a fight.

I no longer believe that the Rebel name needs to be changed, but I DO BELIEVE that the Confederate flag can NOT be a symbol of our sports program.  I guess that would put me more in line with what Mr. Buckley’s opinion was. If we can figure out a way to keep the Rebel mascot without the Confederate symbols, I think it would be possible to keep the Rebel mascot in Walpole.

The “Gun-totin Reb” should be taken off of the sign on Walpole High’s front lawn, and there should be increased patrolling of the stands during football games to prevent students bringing and waving Confederate flags. The Walpole school administration, including School Committee, should be more active in sending a strong message to Walpole’s citizens: The Walpole Rebels is symbolic of rebelling and challenging the status quo, but has nothing to do with dividing our Union or maintaining slavery.

Walpole’s unique Rebel mascot is a perfectly acceptable sports team name if it is not connected to the Confederacy.

Walpole needs to recognize how hurtful and offensive its mascot is, and Walpole needs to work together to revamp our version of the Rebel mascot to be more inviting.  I think that change needs to come from within the high school.

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