Confederate symbols at Texas schools come under scrutiny

(AP File Photo)
(AP File Photo)

EVADALE, Texas (AP) — A few Texas school districts are under scrutiny for using Confederate symbols that backers say stand for tradition but critics believe are in support of racism.

The Rev. Kyev Tatum, president of the Fort Worth chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, wants all such symbols to be taken down. Tatum has filed complaints with the Texas Education Agency asking that the Birdville Independent School District change the rebel mascot names at Richland High School in North Richland Hills, near Fort Worth.

Hundreds of people rallied Sunday to keep the rebel names, maintaining the Dixie Bells and Johnny Rebs are not divisive words.

Scott Maywald of Fort Worth attended the rally and draped a Confederate battle flag over his vehicle.

“Everybody’s saying (the rally) is not about the flag, but it is about the flag,” Maywald said. “It’s all connected. It’s not one thing. They’re trying to take the peoples’ rights away, one at a time, and that’s not right.”

In Evadale, a town of about 1,500 located 25 miles north of Beaumont, the school district’s website features a crest with the words “Rebel Pride” and the school song with the phrase, “Colors gold and blue; True to all our Rebel colors, Evadale to you.”

The rebel flag is part of a sign outside the high school, and a crest with the Confederate markings is inside a high school gymnasium.

Superintendent Gary Fairchild said last month that the crest is part of the school’s history and will not be changed unless the district gets complaints. Fairchild didn’t immediately return a message for comment Monday.

The Confederate flag has never been used to discriminate against students or any group, but, rather, is a symbol of pride at the school, Class of 2015 valedictorian Jamie Richardson said.

“We should be able to have the right to fly that flag and that’s an individual right,” she said. “But I can see where it would possibly offend someone and I know that as a person who cares about people and loves people that I could understand if someone wanted to express their opinion about how it would be wrong to fly that flag and I just think we should understand it from all points of view.”

Tatum said Monday that the TEA received his complaints and has sought more specifics.

“We are clear. Hate is hate,” and it’s time to “take the Confederacy down,” Tatum said in an email.

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