ASHBURN — Turner County High School will soon have a new nickname.
In a post on the school system’s Facebook page, Superintendent Craig Matthews said the Board of Education at its February meeting responded to student input, “consenting to let students change the mascot.”
“The mascot decision will be made by the students with the stipulation that it meets the purpose for all students and our community,” Matthews said in the post.
Turner County is nicknamed Rebels, a mascot that has been in place since high schools in Ashburn and Sycamore consolidated in 1957. The nickname stayed in place after the county’s Black high school, Eureka, finished integrating into Turner in 1970.
Matthews said a new mascot will be unveiled this spring.
“To our alumni who graduated from Turner County High School and are faithfully devoted to the Rebel school mascot, and to alumni of other schools who are citizens now living in our community, I ask you to support this decision and our students. The pride you have for your school mascot is the feeling we want all students and future alumni to enjoy.”
Matthews said a poll of Turner County High students showed that 78% wanted to potentially change the mascot.
The initial Facebook post was Feb. 9. Two days later, Matthews added an update, asking commenters to support the student body.
“What happened to love your neighbor?,” Matthews said. “Let’s come together. Support our CHILDREN in the school system. This is something the children asked for.”
A second post on the Turner County Schools’ Facebook page Feb. 11 by Matthews addressed the cost of changing the mascot. Uniforms are regularly changed out, he said, usually every two to three years.
Matthews said Turner “hasn’t consistently used the mascot for years.” Once a new mascot is selected, he said, a marketing company will do free design work. It will also bring Turner’s schools together under one design; Matthews said there are variations of the Turner ’T’ and school colors (blue and orange) in use.
“There are routine purchases every school year that would normally include a mascot, logo, or graphic, and those are a part of normal school business,” Matthews said.
“What is the cost of a mascot change to the taxpayers of Turner County? Little to none. “
Only a handful of schools in Georgia continue to use Rebels. Two are nearby, including one of Turner’s regular opponents, Atkinson County. Berrien continues to use the mascot as well.
Like Turner, both schools opened in the 1950s, Atkinson in 1955 and Berrien in 1954. The nickname was once more prolific in the area, but schools such as Crisp County High and Valdosta State changed it in the 1970s.
The mascot has not been the only controversy through the years in Turner County. It was not until 2007 that an integrated prom was held.