Crowd supports Confederate flag, ‘Rebels’ at Effingham school meeting
More than 500 people packed the school board auditorium in Springfield on Tuesday night, booing speakers from the NAACP who asked for the removal of Confederate symbols from Effingham County High School, which is nicknamed the Rebels.
Robin Screen said a petition he started two days ago on change.org to keep Effingham the home of the Rebels has 6,000 signatures. He said the effort is about school pride and tradition, not racism and hate.
One woman in the audience from Guyton said that removing the symbols is an effort to erase history.
“You want to end racism, then people like you need to stay away from places like this,” she said.
School board Chairman Lamar Allen said the board would take the comments under consideration and would give an answer at a later date.
Effingham NAACP President Leroy Lloyd asked the board to remember Ebenezer Creek, where a number of freed black slaves drowned during the Civil War, and Charleston, where nine people died in a racially motivated shooting at a historic black church in June.
He said it’s time to retire the Confederate flag and other symbols of the Confederacy.
“We see it as a symbol of hate and racism,” he said.
Bishop Franklin Blanks of First Union Missionary Baptist Church in Guyton asked the board to remove the use of the Confederate flag and the rebel as the school mascot with a Confederate soldier caricature. He also asked the board to discontinue the playing of “Dixie” as the school fight song.
Blanks said the school district has been proactive, making the letter “E” for “Effingham” the school logo, but he said it hasn’t been enough.
He displayed caps from recent baseball teams that have the Confederate soldier caricature, the letter “R” and the word “Rebels.”
School Superintendent Randy Shearouse said the Rebel caricature was swapped for the “E” as the school logo about 20 years ago.
He said the school doesn’t have a mascot. There are two signs inside the high school that depict a Confederate soldier — one near the cafeteria and one in the weight room.
Students frequently fly Confederate flags at sporting events and the school band plays “Dixie.”
“Our kids get along great. That’s what’s paramount,” Shearouse said. “We want to be sure they have the best education possible.”