- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - A Fort Smith lawyer is giving up his efforts to restore the Rebel mascot at Southside High School after two board members told him they would no longer vote to restore the mascot.

“My bottom line is we don’t have the votes,” Joey McCutchen told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1qShT50). “In effect, that ends the issue.”

The school board voted last July to remove the Rebel mascot and “Dixie” fight song, citing their connections to the former Confederacy and the objections of critics who view them as symbols of racism.

McCutchen said Wade Gilkey called him Thursday and Bill Hanesworth notified him Friday that they would no longer support returning the Rebel mascot to Southside High School.

Both men were elected to the school board in September, and both voted for a compromise proposed in October that would restore the Rebel, but not “Dixie” as the school fight song.

The board later chose Mavericks as the mascot and “The Wabash Cannonball” as the fight song.

Hanesworth said it was time to move on because the Fort Smith School District has bigger issues to deal with.

“If this mascot thing is out there and out there and out there, it deflects you from dealing with things you need to be dealing with,” Hanesworth said Friday.

McCutchen is still fighting on another front, filing an appeal Friday of a Sebastian County Circuit Court decision regarding the meeting in which the board did away with the Rebel mascot.

McCutchen said the meeting was held in violation of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

“The Rebel issue was never on the agenda,” he said. “The only notice they gave out was that they were having a closed meeting to evaluate the superintendent. Therefore, they knew nobody would be there. So they decided to have a committee of the whole meeting that same day.”

The appeal was filed with the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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