Update - June 29, 2020
June 29, 2020
Two weeks ago we asked the Freeman Family if we believed that our nickname, “Rebels”, matched the core values of our school and community. With our graduation exercises behind us, we wanted to provide an update and a timeline for how we will make the decision whether we will continue with “Rebels” as our mascot.
First, however, I must thank you for the amazing response we received from our community. Our goal has been--and continues to be--to listen and make sure we understand every perspective from the thousands of individuals who have interest in Douglas Freeman High School. Your responses have provided just that. Personally, I have been touched by the thoughtful, impassioned, well-crafted responses, which I’ve spent the last few weeks reading. Honestly, it reminded me of the love for Freeman in our community and the brilliant individuals who have passed through our halls.
We have heard from more than 1300 stakeholders who shared their varied perspectives. Their narrative responses, stories, and opinions read as a remarkable history of our school, producing more than 150,000 words (250 pages) on the topic.
We have heard a vast array of opinions, but common refrains in the responses have emerged so far:
The passion, commitment and love for Freeman High School—what we would call “Intensity and Pride”--is powerful and held by respondents on all sides of the issue; the Freeman Family cares deeply about our school and this topic.
This matters to members of many generations of Freeman students, from several thoughtful (and varied) responses from the first students who attended DSF , to current students to parents of future Freeman students.
Many do not. They feel that the term “Rebel,” given our school and city’s history, can never be re-framed to fully separate from a group that fought against America and for reasons that included upholding the institution of slavery.
Many point to their own experiences to powerfully illustrate the point above.
Many have changed their view over time.
Many are conflicted or undecided.
How we are viewed by others matters. This includes other schools we compete with, those who drive past our school or see our T-shirts but for whom the term has not been re-branded.
Striving to be a unified community is a concern for many and there is a worry that a mascot change could damage the sense of family, across generations and demographics, something that several noted is special about Freeman.
Please know that our intentions in sharing these views are simply to inform the community what we are hearing and provide an update as we work toward a consensus, not to pass judgement on any submission or even to suggest that each carries equal weight. Instead, we hope to model an important skill we teach our students, that listening to others with differing views is both healthy and encouraged in our community.
As I read through the hundreds of unique opinions, each shaped by varying perspectives and life experiences, I am struck by one commonality, that every respondent—with absolute unanimity—took the time to submit his or her thoughts about the future of Freeman High School likely because they want what is best for the Freeman Family. This is cause for hope and optimism and a great starting point for our ability to come together as a community once we have made this decision.
I realize, however, that I bring my own perspective to the table as I read what has been shared through this community conversation, so I am reaching out to other members of the Freeman family for help. Throughout the month of July, I will meet with a committee made up of three current students, two current Freeman parents, two members of the current DSF staff, and alumni from three separate decades. They will read the entries, listen to the conversation, and advise me and my team as we make our decision.
Furthermore, we plan to hold a forum on the topic where representatives from the varied viewpoints will have the opportunity to share their experiences. Our goal for this event, which will be held virtually due to health restrictions, is for each of us to listen to those with a different perspective, something we hope to model as an essential skill in our increasingly complex world. We will publish information about that July 14th event on our social media platforms and at www.freemanmascot.info.
Following a month of public comment, another month of committee meetings to review that information and a forum series open to the public, we will make a decision on the future of the “Rebel” name in mid-August. This will allow us to have a plan moving forward as we begin the complicated 2020-21 school year.
As I stated in my first message, there are some in our community who question the need to examine our school’s mascot at all. There are some who question why we need to carefully listen to everyone and wonder why we don’t change it today. In the end I hope that we will listen to each other and engage in a dialogue that allows us to see others’ perspectives — a process which may have far-reaching positive effects beyond the name of a mascot. I hope that the process I’ve outlined here demonstrates our desire to listen and to lean in to the conversations that will only make us stronger as a community.
If you would like to provide comments, your opinion, or share your experiences, you can still do so until July 11, by clicking here. If you have any questions, please contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this important issue for our school and community.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
John MarshallPrincipalDouglas S. Freeman High School