South Burlington High School
Students at South Burlington High chose 'Wolves' as the school's new mascot.

Vermont court says South Burlington district doesn't have to put mascot name to public vote

Oct. 29, 2018
Some residents filed lawsuit after the school board changed the high school mascot from "Rebels" to "Wolves."

The Vermont Supreme Court has rejected efforts of some South Burlington residents to force a referendum on what the local high school's mascot should be.

The Burlington Free Press reports that the lawsuit was brought by residents who disapproved of the school board's decision last year to change the mascot at South Burlington High School from "Rebels" to "Wolves."

"We conclude that the District did not have a duty imposed by law to include the petitioned article in a district-wide vote," the state supreme court decided.

The name Rebel as the school mascot came into use in the 1960s along with the Confederate flag and Colonel mascot. The Confederate imagery was confined by school administrators to home-game use. The imagery was retired in the 1990s.

The name and imagery was a subject of debate for decades before the South Burlington School Board decided on Feb. 1, 2017, to drop the name. The action resulted in immediate blowback from some in the community who identified with the tradition of the Rebel name. Some said they believed that because the Confederate imagery was no longer in use, the name should stay.

Other residents couldn't abide by the name's association with Confederate imagery, especially in light of contemporary ideas on racial justice.

Students chose the mascot name Wolves, which was approved by the School Board in June 2017.

The lawsuit was brought after community members sought to have a public referendum on the school mascot. A school board member made a motion to discuss and potentially act on the petition, but none of the other board members seconded it. The suit contended that the board was legally bound to recognize the petition and hold a citywide vote, but the court rejected the argument.

School district lawyer Pietro Lynn says the district is pleased with the decision.

"We hope that the ruling permits of all us to put our differences aside and return our focus to our shared concern for what is best for our schools," he says.

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