Student newspaper reprimanded for not using word ‘Redskins’
Neshaminy High School in suburban Philadelphia has a strong football team — at 11-1, it has a shot at its second state title.
But the school’s newspaper, the Playwickian, has an issue with the school’s nickname — the Redskins. And when they stopped using it, they were sent to the principal’s office.
The paper’s editors caught flak from school officials after an Oct. 27 editorial that barred the use of the nickname.
“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, which was backed by 14 of 21 staff members of the paper. (Another op-ed voiced the dissenting group’s opinion.)
The school got its name, Neshaminy, from a nearby creek where the Lenape Indians once lived. The welcome sign at the high school sometimes reads “Everybody do the Redskin Rumble,” but some editors of the newspaper pledged to stop using the nickname as far back as 2001.
“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.
Still, the school’s principal, Robert McGee, ordered the editors to put the “Redskins” ban on hold, and summoned them to a meeting after school on Tuesday, according to 16-year-old junior Gillian McGoldrick, the paper’s 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,” McGoldrick said.
All 2,6000 students at the school must publish an article in the paper for course credit, so McGee doesn’t feel any student should be prevented from writing the name Neshaminy Redskins.
“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,” McGee said. “I see it as a First Amendment issue running into another First Amendment issue.”
School officials also ordered the Playwickian to run a full-page, $200 ad — submitted by a Class of ’72 alumnus — celebrating the “Redskin” name, McGoldrick said, but the ad was pulled late last week.