For High School Newspaper in Pa., Fight About Printing the Word ‘Redskins’ Rages On
BENSALEM, Pa. — A suburban Philadelphia school board has approved a policy limiting — but not completely eliminating — a school newspaper’s ability to ban use of the word “Redskins” when referring to the school’s sports teams or mascot.
The Neshaminy school board voted 8-1 without discussion Thursday night to approve the revised policy that bars the Bucks County high school newspaper from banning the name of the mascot from its editorials or its letters to the editor. The changes give students more control over the news section of The Playwickian but retain a 10-day review period, restrictions on comments on articles and other limitations.
The newspaper staff voted in October to ban use of “Redskins,” calling it a racial slur, but some district officials have maintained that students aren’t allowed to do that. The student editors and their attorney, who maintain that the policy is inconsistent with state law and the U.S. Constitution, said they would discuss their next step.
“We’re definitely not just going to sit back and let this happen,” co-editor-in-chief Gillian McGoldrick said after the meeting. “There are so many things that are wrong with this.”
Jack Haines, the managing editor, especially objected to a provision allowing the principal to censor the paper for “any reasonable reason” and another barring the paper from endorsing a political candidate.
“It essentially boils down to an administrator being able to censor for any reason he deems reasonable,” he said.
In the paper’s last edition earlier this month, editors refused to run a student’s letter mentioning the nickname and criticizing the newspaper staff although the administration had told them to publish it. Instead, they printed an editor’s note explaining their position.
Board member Stephen Pirritano, whose son wrote that letter, said he was glad to see the policy pass.
“I feel the board did the right thing, and I feel these policies will stand up to any legal challenge against them,” he said.
Board member Mike Morris, who cast the lone dissenting vote, faulted the administration’s handling of the situation and its dealing with the newspaper staff.
“We should have sat down and found out what they wanted and why, and what we wanted and why, and I don’t think that has happened,” he said.
McGoldrick said support from the community during the eight-month struggle had encouraged the editors to fight for what they believed.
“We’re all strong-willed enough,” she said, “that we want to keep fighting.”
Last week, a federal panel ruled that the NFL’s Washington Redskins team name is disparaging and its trademarks should be canceled.
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