On Thursday, Fairfax High School principal Erin Lenart announced that the school will no longer identify as the Rebels, instead adopting the Lions as its official mascot ahead of the 2020-21 academic year.
Citing the former mascot’s ties to the Confederacy, Lenart told members of the Fairfax community that the decision was one that had been made last September. Its athletic programs purchased and distributed uniforms that avoided the word “rebel” this past year in preparation for the transition.
“At Fairfax, we pride ourselves on inclusivity, family, belongingness, respect, and integrity, and given the history of Rebel, it is time for a change: Moving forward, Fairfax High School will no longer be the Rebel Pride; we will be known as the Fairfax Lions,” Lenart said in an email bulletin distributed by Fairfax County Public Schools.
As principal, Lenart was authorized to make the decision unilaterally, though the FCPS school board voiced its support for the change. The street adjacent to school, Rebel Run, will subsequently be renamed Lion Run at a school board meeting Thursday.
The announcement comes amid nationwide protests for racial equity following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, who died May 25 after a police officer kept his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 48 seconds. Nationally, sports leagues have made changes such as NASCAR’s ban of the Confederate flag and the NFL admitting it was wrong to fight the players on kneeling during the national anthem.
Fellow Fairfax County high school J.E.B. Stuart, named after a Confederate general, adopted Justice High School ahead of the 2018-19 school year. In January 2019, Arlington County high school Washington-Lee changed its name to Washington-Liberty to rid itself of references to top Confederate general Robert E. Lee. A meeting to discuss the name changes for Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School will reportedly be held Monday.