Pennsylvania high school administrators told student newspaper it can’t ban the word ‘Redskins’

Nov 13, 2013 by

PENNSYLVANIA — Editors at Neshaminy High School’s student newspaper want to stop using the term “Redskins” — the school’s long-time nickname and mascot — but say administrators have told the paper’s adviser the staff is not allowed to make that call.

In The Playwickian’s October issue, the staff published an editorial explaining that they would no longer use the word itself or any derivative. The decision was the result of a 14-7 vote taken of the paper’s editorial board.

“The word ‘Redskin’ is racist, and very much so,” staff wrote in the editorial. “It is not a term of honor, but a term of hate.”

The editorial garnered a lot of media attention initially, but staff didn’t expect anything more to happen as a result of their decision, said Gillian McGoldrick, the Playwickian’s editor-in-chief.

Then, Rob McGee, the school’s principal, emailed the paper’s adviser with a “directive,” McGoldrick said. Adviser Tara Huber passed along the message to student editors because they are responsible for all editorial decisions, said Reed Hennessy, the paper’s sports editor.

“McGee said, ‘I don’t think you have the right to not use the word Redskins,’” Hennessy said, adding that the email said the paper had to continue to use the term at least until a hearing that McGee scheduled for Nov. 19 to discuss the issue.

In addition, the staff isn’t allowed to reject advertisements with the word, McGoldrick said.

Shortly after the initial email, a full-page advertisement was submitted that reads “Neshaminy Redskins, nearly a century of school and community, history pride and tradition, go Skins,” McGoldrick said. The advertisement, paid for by an alumnus of the class of 1972, was submitted to the staff by Tom Magdelinskas, the school’s vice principal of co-curriculars.

McGoldrick and Hennessy said administrators haven’t spoken to editors directly. Both said that Huber has asked for clarification about whether she must compel the students to use the term and to accept advertising using the term, but that she hasn’t gotten a clear answer.

“It’s really upsetting that our rights are being questioned and that we are being forced into this situation,” McGoldrick said. “We really didn’t do anything wrong except voice our opinions.”

Neither McGee nor Magdelinskas could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts. Calls to Superintendent Robert Copeland also went unreturned.

Huber declined to comment.

School board President Ritchie Webb said he was familiar with the paper’s editorial but disagrees with their conclusion that the term is offensive.

“Whenever we use the term ‘Redskin,’ it is only in a positive light,” Webb said.

Webb said he believes the Playwickian editors’ decision infringes on the free speech rights of students and advertisers who want to use the term.

“Bottom line is, if people take an editorial class, are we taking away their right to freedom of speech? Are you not allowed to use ‘Redskins’ even if you want to?” Webb asked.

McGoldrick said the paper has the right to make its own decisions.

“We have editorial control,” she said. “We can’t censor, we’re an editorial board. … We adopted this policy, and we should be able to use it.”

via Pennsylvania high school administrators told student newspaper it can’t ban the word ‘Redskins’ – SPLC News.

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