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Biting back: Former ‘Bulldogs’ speak out against mascot change at Bate

Members of the Bate High School Alumni Association are speaking out against a decision by the Danville Independent Schools Board of Education to change the Bate Middle School mascot from Bulldogs to Admirals.

In a letter dated April 7 sent to The Advocate-Messenger, the association says the mascot should remain the same because it is the school’s “legacy and history and it should not be changed for the sake of being unified for convenience.”

Attached to the letter was a document titled, “Repeal of Mascot Change,” which carries signatures of the association’s president, secretary, treasurer and five board members. It calls the change “unacceptable” to the alumni association.

“Your interest in a common mascot name for the system is commendable but it supports removing a long legacy of the name ‘Bulldog’ this community has known for a long period of time that falls short of inclusion but reverts to exclusion without remorse. It simply must not be met with acceptance but with a resounding ’NO’ to the change,” it reads.

Glenn A. Ball, an alumni association board member who signed the letter, said a letter and a copy of the document was also sent to the Danville Schools central office.

There are about 100 members of the alumni association and Ball said he had “unanimous support” before crafting the letter.

“It’s a matter of history and a matter of legacy. It’s always been like that,” Ball said. “That is our identity. That is Bate School. It should stay that way.”

Ball said the school’s mascot should be different, because “Bate School was different.” He attended Bate School through 12th grade and credits it for his ability to get where he is now.

“My education started at Bate School,” Ball said.

The school made an impact on many others, he said — a “very big impact.”

“Why would you get rid of everything that’s part of our history and our legacy? It’s been a very vital part of this community for many years,” Ball said. When schools were consolidated in 1964, there was talk of making it Danville Middle School and “there was a cry from the community,” he said.

Ball said if they need to, the alumni association would explore fighting the change through legal routes.

Bate’s history

Bate Middle School is named after John W. Bate, a former slave. His family obtained their freedom in 1862. He attended Berea College in the late 1800s and came to Danville to teach in a one-room school.

James H. Atkins, a former teacher at Bate Middle School and current interim assistant principal at Danville High School, spoke to Bate students in March about the history of the school and the man.

Atkins explained that Bate spent 59 years in education in Danville before his death in 1945. Bate started in a one-room school named the Danville Colored School. By his retirement in 1941, the school had expanded to be a 20-room school with 15 teachers and a two-thirds gymnasium. Enrollment had increased from six to 600 students, and it was an accredited high school.

The school was Bate High School from 1912 to 1964, when the schools integrated and Bate became Bate Junior High.

In 1978, the new Bate Middle School was constructed behind the existing Bate Junior High, which was torn down.

SO YOU KNOW

Danville Independent Schools are on spring break this week and Superintendent Keith Look said he was unable to properly comment, having not seen the letter yet. The board will have a working session at 6 p.m. on Monday at Jennie Rogers Elementary School, and Look said they might discuss the matter, although it isn’t currently on the agenda.

The next regular meeting of the Danville Board of Education is 6 p.m. April 17 at Danville High School. Anyone wishing to speak must contact the central office beforehand to be placed on the agenda.