LANCASTER — Quartz Hill High School’s “Rebel” mascot is no more.
Word of the change leaked early Thursday and Antelope Valley Union High School District administrators made it official in an evening release.
“Quartz Hill High School places a high value on creating an atmosphere of acceptance, respect and love for all students,” the District said. “Our school’s vibrant history includes the stories of more than fifty years of graduates who have left our classrooms to positively contribute to the world. We are immensely proud of both our current student body and the alumni who continue to represent our core values.
“The more recent events that have transpired locally and across the world have resulted in a sincere reflection on our core values as an institution and the way in which we represent those values to our community. It is abundantly clear that we can no longer continue to use the rebel mascot to represent our school community. Effective immediately, the Rebel mascot and the Rebel name will no longer be used at Quartz Hill High School. This unique moment in our school history will be the catalyst to create a more unifying, inclusive culture for the future generations of students.”
Quartz Hill High students and staff will work together to select a new mascot to represent the spirit of the beloved 56-year-old school, the district added.
A Change.org petition to remove the Rebel as Quartz Hill High’s mascot used an old image of the mascot that was no longer in use. The current mascot image — supposedly a revolutionary soldier in blue and gold — has been in use since 2017.
“They did update it slightly to look like more of a rancher mascot,” Quartz Hill High alum Desiree Fernandez said, adding the image and name were still troubling to many people.
Fernandez’s petition had 5,452 signatures as of Friday, or nearly 73% of its target 7,500 goal. But that was a moot point Friday.
“For me personally, I did see a lot of racial bias at the school,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez met Wednesday with current Quartz Hill High Principal Zach Mercier to talk. What was supposed to be a one-hour conversation lasted three hours, Fernandez said.
“I did get the idea that he had spent some time in wanting to move forward as far as changing the reputation of the school and getting rid of the mascot,” Fernandez said.
“Quartz Hill High School believes that all students have the right to feel comfortable and proud of the school they attend,” Mercier said in a statement. “The Rebel mascot has been a point of discussion, not just in recent days, but at multiple points throughout the school’s history. I am eager to work collaboratively with the students and staff to select a mascot that embraces the spirit of our school and what it means to be a student of Quartz Hill High School.”
Fernandez organized protests in honor of George Floyd, the Minnesota man whose May 25 death while in police custody sparked weeks of protests worldwide. Fernandez was also friends with Robert Fuller, whose body was found hanging from a tree in Poncitlán Square on June 10. Fuller’s death is under investigation.
Fernandez said with everything going on in the community, she felt an urgency to make change now to ban the mascot so students would feel comfortable when they returned to school.
“In the proposal that I wrote him along with removing the mascot we also were advocating for students to have representation for them to be able to point out any racial discrimination or anything like that without risking retaliation,” Fernandez said.
The “Rebel” mascot has gone through changes over the years. According a history of the mascot printed in a 2014 program in celebration of Quartz Hill High’s 50th anniversary, the “Rebel” mascot was chosen after students, their parents and community members resolved not to let the “big guys” push them around after they successfully secured an injunction to have the school built at 60th Street West and Avenue L.
Antelope Valley Press archives confirmed that story. According to the archives, the rebel became the school mascot in the late 1950s to remind people of the struggle to make the high school a reality.
Quartz Hill resident Wayne Nicholson fought for its current location at 60th and L more than 50 years ago. During the years, the school faced a number of other battles, including a struggle to obtain its gym and track.
It is because of such obstacles that the Rebel mascot was chosen.
In the past, according to a Quartz Hill High alumni blog post, it was common to see the school’s mascot ride across the football field on horseback waving a flag. In the picture accompanying the post, a student dressed in a blue uniform with gold stripes is seen holding a Confederate flag.
In April 1995, community members, including Lynda Thompson Taylor, president of the NAACP Lancaster chapter, asked the Antelope Valley Union High School District Board to get rid of “Johnny Reb,” saying it encourages hatred. Speakers at the time did not object to the word “rebel,” just the symbols that accompany it, according to Valley Press archives.
According to the story, the school had removed all the confederate flags and swords and revamped the school’s letterhead a couple of months earlier.
LaDawn Best, 17, a senior at Quartz Hill High School at the time, campaigned to remove symbols of the Confederacy from the campus and school materials. Best circulated a petition on the campus and in the community to do away with the symbol. She collected approximately 1,072 signatures.