Neshaminy student editors bristle, but school district insisting on printing mascot name ‘Redskins’

A Bucks County school district is now one step closer to passing a policy that would effectively force the high school’s newspaper to print the word “Redskins” even though student editors find the school’s mascot offensive.

In an October editorial published in The Playwickian, student editors at Neshaminy High School deemed the term racially insensitive and vowed not to print it in anywhere in the paper.

In response, a school board committee crafted a policy addressing school-based publications that, in part, overturns the paper’s editorial ban on using the word “Redskins.”

“Assuming that it’s a proper use of the word, such as a reference to the mascot, the school district does not believe, and I don’t believe the law allows, one set of students to prohibit another student from expressing himself or herself,” said Michael Levin, who serves as special counsel to the district.

At a public meeting Tuesday night, the policy committee voted to recommend that the full Neshaminy School Board of Directors pass the measure.

The decision disappointed and angered some student editors who argue the district has no right to steer newspaper policy.

“Students shouldn’t drop their First Amendment Rights at the school-house gate regardless of if we are professionals or we’re just student editors,” said rising senior Maddy Buffardi. “A lot of us want to go into some sort of communications career and I think we should be able to work as a normal, functioning newspaper and not like we’re babies.”

The board is expected to consider the measure during a meeting on Thursday night.

School board member Stephen Pirritano said he expects the policy to pass unanimously.  His son recently wrote a letter to the editor expressing his support for and pride in the Redskin mascot, but the student editors would not print the letter with the word.  They instead printed an explanation of their policy and why they chose not to include the letter.

The student editors have retained a lawyer and say they are prepared to go to court.

“I couldn’t even think about stopping [the fight]” said editor-in-chief Gillian McGoldrick.

There is still an unresolved complaint to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, filed by the parent of a Neshaminy High School student who is part Cherokee.  The student and his mother object to the district keeping the Redskin mascot.

Over the last year, the dispute has garnered attention statewide and nationally.  ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann derided the former school board president for his defense of the Redskin mascot.  Tara Huber, the teacher adviser to the Playwickian, was named Journalism Teacher of the Year for 2014-2015 by the Pennsylvania School Press Association.

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