Pa. Students Ban Use Of 'Redskins,' Get Sent To Principal

You'd think the grownups would be pleased.

I have a dear friend who's an Indian, and she was the person who first explained to me just how offensive the word "redskin" is, and why. Props to these kids for taking the initiative on this, and boo to the principal for once again proving there is no higher cause than football:

PHILADELPHIA — When a high school newspaper at a suburban Philadelphia football powerhouse decided the word "Redskins" had no place in its pages, the paper's student editors found themselves called to the principal's office.

The dispute between Neshaminy High School's paper, the Playwickian, and school administrators is a strange twist on the fight over what students can and can't say: this time it's the students urging restraint.

The Playwickian editors started getting heat from school officials after an Oct. 27 editorial that barred the use of the word "Redskins" — the nickname of the teams at Neshaminy, a school named for the creek where the Lenape Indians once lived.

"Detractors will argue that the word is used with all due respect. But the offensiveness of a word cannot be judged by its intended meaning, but by how it is received," read the editorial backed by 14 of 21 staff members. (An equally well-written op-ed voiced the dissenting group's opinion.)

The ban comes as Native American activists and a few media outlets, along with President Barack Obama, challenge the moniker of Washington's NFL team, which visits Philadelphia on Sunday.

At Neshaminy — where the welcome sign sometimes reads: "Everybody do the Redskin Rumble" and the football team is 11-1 with a shot at its second state title— news editors had pledged to stop using the term "Redskins" as far back as 2001, but sometimes wavered. This year's staff decided to take it on full-force.

"You are not afraid to write about the hard and sensitive issues. You take risks on editorial pages — bravo!" judges wrote last month in a student journalism contest, when the Playwickian earned a top award.

Nonetheless, Principal Robert McGee ordered the editors to put the "Redskins" ban on hold, and summoned them to a meeting after school Tuesday, according to junior Gillian McGoldrick, the editor-in-chief.

"People are [saying], 'Just give in. It doesn't really matter.' But it's a huge deal, that we're being forced to say something that we don't want to," said McGoldrick, a 16-year-old junior.

McGee called the editors' motives "valiant," but said the dispute pits the rights of one group of students against another.

His approximately 2,600 students must each publish an article in the Playwickian for course credit. He doesn't think anyone should be barred from writing about the Neshaminy Redskins, especially, he said, when the harm alleged is open to debate.

"I don't think that's been decided at the national level, whether that word is or is not [offensive]. It's our school mascot," said McGee, who said he's consulted with the school solicitor and others. "I see it as a First Amendment issue running into another First Amendment issue."

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