Quaker Name Change

In 2016 a proposition was made by a Franklin parent to change Franklin High School’s mascot, the Quakers. This name was seen as offensive to the Quaker religion. Since then, a countless number of meetings have taken place concerning the name change, and the Mascot Naming Committee was formed as way for alumni, students, faculty, and community members to voice their opinions on choosing a new mascot. One particular reason as to why the Quaker mascot was seen as a concern to some community members was because of a line in Franklin’s fight song; “Go Quakers, fight, fight, fight!” which goes against the non-violent practice of the Quaker religion, known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.

Over the last three years, many Franklin community members have worked together in making the naming process as fair as possible through discussing which names would be most suitable for Franklin during mascot committee meetings, to having students voice their opinions through voting on slips of paper. One community member in particular was able to experience first-hand all of the work that was involved throughout the entire naming process. Bob Earnest, a Franklin alumni, is one of three Franklin representatives for the Alumni Association on the Mascot Naming committee; Steve Matthews and Alex Rodriguez are the other two Alumni Association representatives. The committee is comprised of 19 members, including Franklin alumni, students, faculty, and community members. Cameron Vaughn, the PPS Community and Engagement Manager, worked with Principal Chris Frazier in forming a committee that would represent the Franklin community. Earnest recalls having the responsibility of sharing a poll concerning Franklin’s new name via the FHS website. “I shared the website with about 1000 FHS alumni via several emails and with assistance of the FHS Alumni Association and other Franklin groups.” From there, the naming committee met and reviewed the results, narrowing it down to six potential names with the top three being Lightning, Thunderbolts, and Ambassadors. “The committee discussed the merits of each suggested name and how that name related to Benjamin Franklin and FHS,” says Earnest. “After much discussion, the group agreed to forward the name Lightning to the PPS superintendent who will present it to the PPS Board. Everyone agreed that Lightning was a solid name and represented FHS.” Earnest decided to join the committee as he felt it “[was] very important to have a diverse group with a wide range of experience and knowledge of the community.”

Earnest graduated from Franklin as a Quaker, as did his two brothers and son, yet the name has never been sentimental to him. “I never thought about [Franklin as the] Quaker[s], it was Franklin High School.” Earnest remembers the Quaker mascot as being more of a “cartoon type character” when he was at Franklin in the 1960s. The school fight song was also different and did not present any problems at the time. “Somewhere along the way, the school song was changed and the word Quaker was added in place of ‘fellows’ so now it is ‘fight Quakers, fight, fight, fight.”’ Earnest suggests that the easy fix would be to change “Quaker” to “Franklin” in the fight song so there would be less conflict amongst different groups. To Earnest, the Quaker mascot is not an issue and remains a cartoon character to him. “I heard from a number of FHS graduates who attend the Society of Friends and they expressed their surprise that the Quaker name was being changed. They did not find the Quaker name offensive and continue to be proud FHS graduates.” Overall, Earnest acknowledges that the change will be hard to accept for those who have strong feelings towards being a Franklin Quaker. “Change is difficult for the majority of the population. Time will tell. It takes time to heal and I trust [that] the community will heal and continue to support Franklin High School.”

Among those who are still conflicted with the new name change, questions lie restless in the minds of staff and students who don’t see why a new mascot is necessary. “If [the name Quakers] didn’t change for 100 years, why should we bother with changing it now?” asks one anonymous Franklin senior. Franklin student Rhiannon Harris (11) understands the tension between a religiously conflicting name, yet believes that there could have been an easier approach to dealing with such a situation. “I feel like at face value it is reasonable since Quakers is a religious group, people could think that appropriating that term could be offensive. However there’s easier measures to take that would cost less money.” One of the ideas Harris suggested would be to change the name “Quakers” to “Earthquakers,” as that would be a simpler solution when repainting and remodeling parts of Franklin that still brand the Quaker name. For those who have been in the Franklin community and have firm ties with being a Quaker, the change has not been easy.

Jill Register, secretary for Vice Principal Emily Mather, is a proud alumni of Franklin High School. To Register, being a Quaker brings on deep sentimental value, as her mother Joyce Gago attended FHS and currently works in the alumni room, and Register’s daughter graduated from Franklin as well. Register is opposed to the name change as she believes that there was nothing wrong with the name “Quaker” to begin with. “I went to both pre-school and high school here, and being a Quaker means something. And so for someone to come in and change the name after 100+ years is highly offensive to me,” says Register. Despite having strong feelings towards the situation, Register feels hesitant to voice her true feelings as she feels she has a responsibility to remain unbiased and professional. “I have a long standing history here and I am quite upset about it, but I try to keep quiet and not to say anything because I am a staff, parent and an alumni here at Franklin High School,” Register explains.

In terms of Franklin’s new mascot and the equipment that has yet to be refurbished, Principal Chris Frazier acknowledges that there is work that must be done. “There are still a few items that hold the name Quaker including hallway banners, the stadium scoreboard, baseline pads in the gym, wrestling mats, flooring in the cafeteria, and a set of basketball uniforms. The district will be responsible for assisting Franklin with covering the costs to replace/change these items.” As for the future concerning Franklin’s shift away from the name Quakers, Frazier is determined that the Franklin community will remain strong and resilient. “The new mascot name does not define us as a school; our actions are what truly define us. How we treat one another, how we work together, how we compete, how we give our best efforts, how we celebrate one another, and how we embrace our community is what Franklin is all about. Having some alumni be known as Quakers and others being known by the new name will not change the fact that many amazing students graced theses halls and poured their hearts and souls into this community to make Franklin High school a better place.” The new FHS mascot will officially be decided by the PPS superintendent and will be announced at next month’s board meeting this June.

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