The appropriateness of Loudoun County High School’s Raider mascot has been debated for decades, but that debate ended Tuesday morning.
The School Board voted unanimously to remove the mascot and to direct the school to come up with a new one.
The motion was made by Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) as part of a broader initiative to ensure that Confederate iconography is removed from all school buildings and property.
The Raiders mascot was established when Loudoun County High School opened in 1954, inspired by the Confederate cavalry unit Mosby’s Rangers. Until 1980, the mascot was depicted as a mounted soldier carrying a Confederate battle flag.
The removal of the mascot comes after weeks of national protests advocating racial justice and the end of police brutality. The movement has targeted the removal Confederate monuments across the country and prompted the renaming of two Fairfax County schools this week.
It also is an element of a district-wide anti-racism campaign presented by Superintendent Eric Williams last week.
Serotkin said that, when they first moved to Loudoun, his family lived near Aldie in an area known as a favorite spot for Confederate Col. John Singleton Mosby and his partisan rangers to ambush Union troops. Each day he drove to work on the John Mosby Highway, he noted. He said it was time to stop glorifying those who took up arms against the United States.
Beth Barts (Leesburg) joined the unanimous vote to make the change. She said that many in the Loudoun County High School community don’t know the divisive history of the mascot and noted that efforts over the years to remold the image failed to erase the hateful history it represents. It was time to move on from it, she said.
During a four-hour public comment session earlier in the meeting, the majority of speakers welcomed the change as progress toward pushing racism from the school system, but said there were many more and many more important steps that need to be completed. They urged the board to move forward with the other elements of Williams’ anti-racism plan. Also, some speakers offered suggestions for retaining the Raider brand, while recasting it to represent a Union unit or breaking its Civil War links altogether.
Under the School Board action, the high school will be tasked to select the replacement mascot, but that process has not been determined. The goal is to have the change in place by the start of classes in September.
During last week’s board meeting, when it became clear that a majority of members would support removal of the mascot, Barts sought assurances that the school would not be responsible the cost of changing uniforms and removing Raider iconography from campus. She said the cost could exceed $1 million.
While the actual cost is not yet known, Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) said a motion will be prepared to ask the Board of Supervisors for a special appropriation to pay for the changeover.