South Albany's new nickname is the RedHawks. 

South Albany High School's sports teams will be known as the RedHawks starting this fall.

The high school asked students for nominations, investigated the ones most named, then put them up for a vote, Principal Brent Belveal said. After additional research, the school narrowed down the top three possibilities and put them out for another vote.

"The choice was overwhelmingly 'RedHawks,'" he said.

The colors will remain red and gray, with accents of black.

Belveal called the process of choosing a name and logo to replace "Rebels" as "a journey of discovery" for everyone involved.

"The process has been as open and transparent as possible and throughout the process we have worked to hear the voices of students and the community," he said.

South Albany has been known as "the Rebels" since its construction in 1971. Albany Union High School students who were to transfer there saw themselves as "breaking away" from the Union.

The school chose a red-and-gray color scheme and other logos with Civil War themes, including Confederate "Stars and Bars" flags and a cartoon soldier with a saber.

South Albany has eliminated the flags and most of the Civil War overtones through the years. But racial tension that erupted into deadly violence last summer in Virginia prompted Belveal began researching the possibility of changing the name altogether. 

The district held community forums, gathered hundreds of community comments, sorted through petitions for and against a change, sought student input through discussions held in each Language Arts class, and organized a student visit to Parkrose High School in Portland to gauge the effect of their imagery on a community outside their own.

"The feedback from our kids included the importance of tradition, how we rally around being different, and that they know deeply that our school isn’t racist," Belveal told the Albany School Board in a statement April 23, when the school announced the name would change.

"At the same time, our kids understand that others perceptions — created by the mascot — cause them to think about racism, cause them to be offended, or cause them to question their safety in our school," he went on. "For our kids and our school, the idea that someone wouldn’t feel welcomed or safe is shocking and hard to comprehend because our kids see South Albany as welcoming and safe. It creates a significant conflict of emotions and thoughts for our kids and staff."

Belveal said as he worked on the issue, he began to wonder about his own commitment to being a Rebel "when it creates controversy for families in our community or who might move to our community."

"My comments this evening started with the idea that there are often easy answers to our questions," he told the board in April. "The hard part is trying to determine if the easy answer is the right answer. In this case, after being part of hundreds of conversations and hearing input from thousands of people, I hope that we can make the hard decision and allow our school to move away from the divisiveness of the current mascot and to create a whole new positive chapter in the history of South Albany."

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