A student-led fight to keep the word “Redskins” out of the pages of a Bucks County high school newspaper is heating up.
A group of student editors at Neshaminy High School now has a lawyer and says it’s prepared to go to court if district officials continue to violate its constitutional right to ban the school’s decades-old nickname from sports stories.
An editorial published in the October edition of The Playwickian – Neshaminy’s student newspaper – argued that “Redskin” is racially insensitive and should no longer be published.
In response, district officials, including Neshaminy Principal Robert McGee, told students to hold off on the change while they investigate whether it would infringe on other students’ rights.
The student editors are tired of waiting.
On Friday, they sent a seven-page letter to district officials that states, among other things, that the high school’s “open-ended suspension” of the paper’s editorial decision is “plainly unconstitutional.”
“We knew that if the administration was taking control of the situation, no progress would be made,” said student editor Timothy Cho. “We knew we needed to take the situation into our own hands.”
Attorney Gayle Sproul, who is representing the students, said there are very narrow circumstances in which officials can censor students’ opinions and they simply don’t apply to what’s happening at Neshaminy.
“The test is whether or not there’s a disruption in the school and whether there’s an effect on the rights of students to be secure and there is no evidence of that,” said Sproul, adding that a lawsuit is not the students’ first choice.
Neshaminy School District officials could not be reached for comment.
The ongoing controversy has fired up some Neshaminy alums, but struck a chord with others, including one local newspaper.
In an apparent show of solidarity, The Bucks County Courier Times recently vowed to stop calling the school’s teams “Redskins.” Sports reporter Dan Dunkin, who covers Neshaminy High School, supports the decision.
“What began with good intentions to connote, you know, fighting spirit and bravery on the football field. Well decades later, it’s even more outdated, it’s archaic, it’s racial,” said Dunkin.