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Pa. state commission postpones vote on controversial school mascot

An expected vote by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to decide whether the Neshaminy School District can continue calling some of its sports teams 'The Redskins' has been delayed until November. (Eugene Sonn/WHYY, file)

An expected vote by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to decide whether the Neshaminy School District can continue calling some of its sports teams 'The Redskins' has been delayed until November. (Eugene Sonn/WHYY, file)

It’ll be another month before the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission votes on the fate of a controversial school mascot in Bucks County. The PHRC was expected to announce its decision on Monday.

The highly-anticipated vote is now scheduled for Nov. 25. The commission said that it postponed the decision to give itself more time to review the matter. It wrapped up public hearings on the matter in January.

At issue is whether the Neshaminy School District can continue calling some of its sports teams “The Redskins,” a term the commission says is a racial slur for Native Americans. The commission also argues the nickname creates a “hostile educational environment” for district students.

The district, home to more than 9,400 students, has denied the commission’s allegations, calling them “unfounded.”

The debate over the decades-old mascot has been kicking around for six years.

In 2013, when one of her sons was a freshman at Neshaminy High School, Donna Fann-Boyle filed a complaint with the PHRC with hopes of getting the district to find a new name for some of its sports teams.

Two years later, Fann-Boyle, who has Native American lineage, voluntarily withdrew her complaint because of increasing hostility from the community. But not before the commission found probable cause that the district’s use of “Redskins” violated the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The commission later filed a lawsuit against the school district, prompting a weeklong public hearing in Bucks County.

In 2013, the same year Fann-Boyle filed her complaint with the commission, a group of student editors at Neshaminy High School announced The Playwickian newspaper would no longer publish the word “Redskins” in its pages because they considered it racially offensive.

The decision sparked a contentious battle with school officials.

The Playwickian’s faculty advisor was suspended for two days without pay. The paper’s editor-in-chief was suspended from the top post for a month.

In response to the student-led ban, the Neshaminy School Board passed a policy that barred editors from removing “Reskins” from opinion articles, but allowed them to keep it out of news stories. It’s unclear whether the district has ever had to enforce that policy.

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