Thousands of people sign counter-petition to not rename Harrison High School

Thousands sign counter-petition to keep Harrison High School's name and mascot

Posted: Jul 13, 2020 10:37 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) -- As communities across the country are working to dismantle public symbols that hold a history of racism, now the name and mascot of Harrison High School have been brought to question.

Earlier this month, a group of alumni created a petition to change its name. After we reported the story this weekend, a counter-petition to keep the name was created.

Signatures for the petition to change the name of the school went from around 600 before we reported the story, to more than 1,000 on Monday. The counter-petition, however, gained more than 4,000 signatures in a matter of 24 hours.

"It's possible to be proud of your school and at the same time appreciate the fact that things could have been handled differently," said Kristi Roberts, parent of current and former Harrison High School students.

All three of her kids have gone through the Tippecanoe School Corporation. Her son Matthew is a current Raider who will be a senior this year.

"I understand there are some awful things that happened and we can't change that but it was a different world then and I don't necessarily think that we can just... we can't just forget it," said Matthew Roberts.

The alumni who created the initial name change petition argue that while William Henry Harrison's history shouldn't be forgotten, his name does not deserve to be honored. They are asking the school board to consider changing the name and mascot, if it happens, they'd want current students and faculty to work together to pick a new name and mascot.

Alumni Michele Borton who graduated from the Harrison class of 1985 agrees William Henry Harrison may not have left the best legacy, but she still doesn't want to see the school's legacy suffer.

"I was a Hershey Panther, then I was an East Tipp Trojan, then I was a Harrison Raider, then at Purdue I was a Purdue Boilermaker so those are maybe mascots to some but to others it's a part of your own history, it's a part of your own family it's a part of this community," said Borton.

Those in favor of not changing the name have expressed concerns beyond just holding on to the school's history. They're also concerned about how much it would cost to make the changes and who would pay for it. Rachel Gray, who is one Harrison alumna who worked on the petition in favor of changing the name said that is something they're trying to figure out as well. They're looking into possibly creating a fundraiser.

People in favor of keeping Harrison the same say they're also worried about the ripple effect that could come from changing the name.

"This whole Tippecanoe County is formed and based on history that includes William Henry Harrison so are we going to change the streets in Lafayette, West Lafayette, Battleground," asked Borton. "There are other things that attribute to the area's history." 

Sue Scott, TSC coordinator of communications said they are aware of both petitions. Once the corporation receives the petitions, they will then be present to the school board.

The alumni working to rename the high school are planning to send their petition in early August.

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