neshaminy

Pennsylvania high school refuses to say Redskins, is overruled by school board

The editorial board of a Pennsylvania high school's newspaper voted to stop using the team's name, which is Redskins, in their publication. Regardless of what side of the issue you fall on, the 14-7 vote in favor of ceasing use of the name and the resulting editorial explaining their decision should have at least showed the school's administration that this wasn't a decision that was taken lightly.

The decision of the staff of the Neshaminy Playwickian wouldn't last though, because Principal Rob McGee told the staff that they didn't have the right to not say the word. That's right: a well-thought out, rational decision was overruled. Instead of applauding the editorial staff for making a difficult decision and thinking critically, the school's administration is vetoing their choice because.. it infringes on the free speech rights of others? Wait, what?

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The president of Neshaminy's school board, Ritchie Webb, said, “Bottom line is, if people take an editorial class, are we taking away their right to freedom of speech? Are you not allowed to use ‘Redskins’ even if you want to?" Essentially, he's trying to claim that a word that many find offensive is covered by free speech – an opinion he also has during a school board meeting about the name, calling it a "source of pride" and that he 'cannot find it in my heart to say that our mascot is a racial insult".

The school's administration might not have much of a leg to stand on legally. Via Newsworks:

Under the U.S. Constitution, the district cannot force, or compel, students to print "Redskins" in the paper, said Ken Paulson, president of The First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

"The government, the school administration, can only limit what they publish if it is something that interferes and undercuts the educational process. In this case, it is absolutely at the heart of education to allow students to make decisions about how we refer to others," said Paulson.

He said a lawsuit against the district would be a "slam-dunk" win for students. Hennessy said students may seek legal representation if the district decides against them.

The craziest part of this? The seven editors who voted to keep using the name are also horrified at the response by the school's administration, according to editor-in-chief Gillian McGoldrick

This situation is just a disaster. Even Keith Olbermann weighed in, eviscerating the school's administration on Olbermann Thursday night. Use the word, don't use the word, whatever. But when the editorial board comes up with a reasonable decision, spurred by debate, you don't overrule them because you don't like the decision. That doesn't teach the kids anything, and all it does is make the Neshaminy administration look disingenuous. How are the students supposed to write *anything* now, knowing that the administration will come down on them if they don't agree? This is less about the name and more about letting the editorial process play out without outside interference.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and an associate editor at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is smack dab in the middle of some of the best (and worst) sports fans in the country.

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