High school's Rebel Man mascot stirs up controversy

An Alabama high school is joining communities in the South that are reconsidering symbols that represent their Civil War history.

The Vestavia Hills High School mascot, the Rebel Man, and slogan, "Go Rebels," are raising concerns, and now the local school board is debating whether the image must go, CBS News' Mark Strassmann reports.

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"Let's find a symbol that embodies who we are today and not who were in our tragic past," recent Vestavia Hills graduate Olivia Brooks said.

Many of the 200 people at the meeting thought of each other as the Rebel family. But, for some, it was a family revolt.

"There is no question in my mind that the Confederate soldier and the plantation owner are symbols of racism," Brooks said.

The Rebel Man logo is a caricature of an Old South plantation owner. At Vestavia High sporting events, a student dresses up as the Rebel Man Civil War soldier and fires up the crowd.

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"I do not want my child exposed to a time when she was viewed as less than human," parent Kira Fonteneau said.

Her family moved to Vestavia Hills for the excellent schools for her 4-year-old daughter, Sidney. Fonteneau wants the Rebel Man to move out.

"I don't think this is a black or white issue. This is an empathy issue. This is a sensitivity issue," Fonteneau said.

She said the mascot and school symbols remind her of the Confederacy.

"I see images of slavery. I see Jim Crow," she said.

Vestavia Hills' population of 34,000 is affluent and overwhelmingly white. Signs supporting the Rebel Man are everywhere, and even opponents admit most residents want to keep it.

"It did not, in our hearts, then or now, represent the shameful times of slavery or the racial issue of the day," Dean Paul said.

To supporters, the Rebel Man represents heritage, not hate. Pride, not prejudice.

"There is nothing racist about it," former student and football player Michael O'Neal said.

He agrees the Confederate flag should go, but not the Rebel Man.

"A Confederate flag, with its direct ties to racism, taking down that flag is drawing a line," he said. "But when you starting to bicker over a caricature, you're not drawing lines anymore. You're splitting hairs."

The Rebel Man was inspired by the Ole Miss mascot, Colonel Reb. In 2010, the university replaced the colonel with a black bear.

Three weeks after the Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre, it's Vestavia Hills' time to make their decision. The school board promises a decision by the end of the month.