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Harrison High School alumni create petition to change school name and mascot

Alumni of William Henry Harrison High School are petitioning to change school name amid the nationwide push toward removing public symbols with a history of racism.

Posted: Jul 12, 2020 2:28 AM
Updated: Jul 12, 2020 10:25 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) -- Alumni of William Henry Harrison High School are petitioning to change its name. This call for action follows a nationwide movement of people working to remove public symbols that hold a history of racism in America.

Harrison High School is proudly known as the Home of the Raiders but some alumni say they aren't so proud of the history that name holds.

"We want this to be a discussion about who Harrison was, the U.S. Military that he really helped found and how it has then bled into white supremacy throughout Indiana, the midwest, and our country throughout time," said Rachel Gray, a graduate of the Harrison High School Class of 2000.

Gray joins a number of alumni who worked together to start this petition. They're asking Tippecanoe School Corporation leaders to consider changing the school's name and mascot.

"Our point is to tell them that the renaming needs to happen," said Gray. "We also want to the Raider mascot and any names and signatures and imagery around that to be ended and for the high school to move in a new direction."

Harrison was the 9th President of the United States. Before his time in office, he led U.S. soldiers, or what some refer to as "raiders" to force thousands of Native Americans off their land. During his time as the governor of Indiana, he showed major support for slavery happening in the south, even pushing to bring it to Indiana as the state became its own territory.

"Harrison does not deserve this honor, he does not deserve to have his face or his body or his force on anything related to this school," said Gray.

While Gray is calling for change she also feels for alumni who may not want to let go of their high school alma mater.

"I love and respect people that have graduated as 'Raiders' and the love they might feel that connects them to their classmates and connects them to their past but it is okay to not be 'Raider' anymore and still be the same exact student you were, the same exact community member you were," said Gray.

The petition was published on Jul. 4. Gray said the organizers plan to keep the petition open for a month before presenting it to the Tippecanoe County School Board. She's encouraging people who may disagree with the idea of renaming the school to speak up and express those concerns.

"We've reached out to former faculty, we've reached out to current faculty, we're not trying to keep anyone out of the discussion, we're not trying to promote censorship in any way," said Gray.

Gray credits her passion for activism from the knowledge she gained as a student growing up in the TSC school system.

"There were teachers at the high school level, middle school, and even elementary that really put the foundation of not only how I feel but also the other organizers," said Gray. "We had a great education and we are the product of that great education, we are what they made so this is coming from the great education they gave us."

Gray said the organizers do not have a new name or mascot idea in mind, but they're hoping if the school board approves the change that current staff and students will come up with a new name and mascot together. She said the organizers are also working to figure out how to fund these changes. They are looking into creating a fundraiser in the future. 

We reached out to TSC about the petition and have not yet heard back.

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