ACLU honoring Bucks students who fought use of ‘Redskins’ in high school paper

    A mural of the Neshaminy High School mascot. (Eugene Sonn/WHYY)

    A mural of the Neshaminy High School mascot. (Eugene Sonn/WHYY)

    The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will honor staffers at a Bucks County high school student newspaper next month for refusing to print the word “Redskins.”

    In an editorial published in last October’s edition of The Playwickian, students at Neshaminy High School argued that the name of the school’s mascot was racially insensitive and vowed not to print it.

    In response, the Neshaminy’s Board of School Directors crafted a policy addressing school-based publications that, in part, sought to ban the ban and force students to publish the nickname.

    The months-long dispute garnered national media attention, but ended quietly this summer in defeat for students.

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    The ACLU of Pennsylvania still sees sense in handing the editors the organization’s Civil Libertarian Award for standing up for their rights.

    “Part of the goal of education is to teach students to think for themselves and we think these students have clearly learned how to do that and we think that that should be encouraged rather than discouraged,” said Sara Mullen, the chapter’s associate director.

    An awards ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 8 at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

    Senior Reed Hennessy, editor-in-chief of The Playwickian, said he was surprised when he heard about the award, but also honored to be recognized with his classmates.

    “To me, it’s … not only an award, but it’s you’re doing something right and we’re watching you doing what you’re doing and, you know, thank you for doing it,” said Hennessy.

    In late June, the school board voted to allow students to ban “Redskins” from news articles only, leaving the option of forcing them to print the word in letters to the editor and opinion articles.

    So far, that policy has not been tested.

    Editors say a lawsuit against the school district is still possible.

    The Neshaminy journalists are one of four Libertarian Award winners this year.

    Other honorees include the clients and lawyers in the suit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state.

    A pair of volunteer lawyers who were part of the push to defeat the state’s Voter ID law also will be recognized.

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