Dispute over Robert Smalls Int'l Academy mascot

Dispute over Robert Smalls Int'l Academy mascot
Robert Smalls new logo.
Robert Smalls new logo.

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - A Board of Education committee met to discuss the mascot for Robert Smalls International Academy in Beaufort on Tuesday.

This controversy all got started with the school's logo for last year. The school is named after Robert Smalls, a black Civil War general, but the logo featured a general with a half-white, half-black face dressed in a Revolutionary War uniform.

The logo has since changed to a "G". But the issue on Tuesday was the costume of the mascot that will be worn at football games and pep rallies in the future.

The committee voted to recommend a mascot outfit to the school board that would consist of a historically accurate uniform, similar to one Robert Smalls would've worn. Students would then be chosen to be the mascot, regardless of race or gender.

But members of the alumni association would rather see headgear or a mask that portrays the general's face and his race, something the committee's recommendation did not include.

"We want a likeness, a correct likeness of Robert Smalls so that the children can know their history and how Robert Smalls really looked," said Alumni Association member Jack Washington, Sr.

But the school's principal said that's not what the students want. She surveyed the middle schoolers to see if they wanted to include a type of headgear with the costume. Seventy percent said no, and she believes their opinion should be considered.

"This affects the children. Everything we do is for the children. They're the ones walking through the halls every day, they're the ones at the sporting events, they're the ones that have this name on their transcript and are representing Beaufort County and Robert Smalls International," said Robert Smalls Principal Nicole Holloman.

She also told WTOC the Civil War general is infused in their curriculum and his photos can be found throughout the school.

Plus, some worry that kind of headgear would be disrespectful.

"A uniform likeness, of course. But a head likeness might take away some of the sanctity of the legacy he's left, if we're letting - this is not high school - but we're letting sixth, seventh and eighth graders fill this role and that concerns us," said Robert Smalls School Improvement Council Chair, Michelle Morgan.

But several members of the alumni association took it a step further, telling WTOC after the meeting they believe this is purely about race, that they want a black mascot but the school board and school administrators do not.

WTOC Steven Gallo: "The issue the association has is that Robert Smalls is black and that the school does not want a black mascot. Is that the problem?"

"Yes," replied Washington.

WTOC Steven Gallo: "And that's what you believe is going on here? That that's not what they want?"

'Yes, that's what I truly believe," said Washington.

The principal says that is not true, that this is about listening to the students.

The committee's recommendation will now go before the school board for a vote.

Copyright 2016 WTOC. All rights reserved.