Controversial school mascot could disappear from Bucks County school district

The Neshaminy School District may be forced to give up its Redskins mascot after a hearing by the Pennsylvania Human Relation Commission

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

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

A suburban Philadelphia school district may be forced to retire its decades-old mascot following a public hearing set for January.

The sports teams for the Neshaminy School District in Bucks County are nicknamed “The Redskins.”

In a lawsuit filed against the district in 2015, the Pennsylvania Human Relation Commission argues the name discriminates against Native Americans, creates a “hostile educational environment,” and promotes negative stereotypes for all students.

Through a spokesman, the district declined comment. It has denied the commission’s allegations, calling them “unfounded.”

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Former Neshaminy parent Donna Boyle, who is part Native American, said that’s simply not true.

“The student section at the football games has kids dressed in paint and feathers and boys with their shirts off with the letters for Redskins. It’s so against what an educational institution should be,” she said.

When her son was a student at Neshaminy High School, Boyle filed a complaint with the commission, saying the “Redskins” name – and related imagery – was harmful to his education.

The state commission agreed with Boyle twice – in a preliminary hearing and when the school district appealed the decision. She said the commission – which is also arguing the case – should rule against the district again.

“The school district is owned by the taxpayers. It’s a government entity. It’s supposed to be an educational environment free from discrimination and harassment,” said Boyle.

The hearing is set for the second week of January in Bucks County. An exact location hasn’t been determined.

The Neshaminy School District made national headlines in 2013 when officials battled editors at The Playwickian, Neshaminy High School’s student newspaper, who decided to ban the word Redskins from articles and editorials because they deemed it racially insensitive.

The newspaper’s adviser was suspended for two days without pay. A student editor was removed from her post for a month.

In response to the student-led ban, the Neshaminy School Board passed a policy in June 2014 that barred editors from removing “Redskins” from editorials, but enabled them to keep it out of news and sports articles.

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