Lee High students request mascot

Proposal calls for Confederate general

By Maria Longley and David Ress
Staff Writers
September 15, 2010

Students at Robert E. Lee High School want the school to have a mascot, but the proposed character might stir up controversy.

Katie Dice and Keosha Crawford asked the Staunton School Board on Monday for permission to have a mascot that resembles the school’s historical namesake in Confederate uniform. The board agreed to sound out the community.

But even a cartoon-like Confederate general to lead cheers discomforts some.

"I sort have a problem with that," said Frezell Crawford, a 1975 graduate of Lee High who still attends football and basketball games to support the school.

"You try to get past things like that — you don’t want to go back. I think they could come up with something else."

Crawford said he’s fine with the school’s name, since that’s what it was before it became integrated.

"It shouldn’t stop being in the history books. People should know the history," said Crawford. "But having a mascot like that is different. It could bring back bad feelings, and people might not go to the games."

Taron Bryant shares Crawford’s concerns. Bryant is a Lee High senior and president of the Staunton Youth NAACP. He thinks it would be better to pick a mascot that is more unifying.

"They might lose some people going to the games," he said. "I don’t really see a problem with it, but I don’t know how other African-Americans would feel about it."

Although Lee is a figure who can stir strong emotion, School Superintendent Steven Nichols said the key thing to remember is that the mascot proposal is a student initiative, and one that has drawn broad support from students of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

More than 480 Lee High students have voted in support of a Lee mascot, with about 20 opposing it.

Dice told the board the students are aware of Lee’s role leading the army of the slave-holding south. But he also was a great Virginian, namesake of the school and "he loved his state … (and) we love our school," Dice said.

Allowing a mascot would be "giving us a symbol to cheer to allow our community and our opponents to see this love," she added.

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