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Pennsylvania school newspaper stops using Redskins nickname, administration fights back

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

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Neshaminy High is one of two Pennsylvania high schools still using the Redskins mascot -- TulalipNews.com

Neshaminy High is one of two Pennsylvania high schools still using the Redskins mascot -- TulalipNews.com

Following the footsteps of media giants like Grantland and MMQB, a Pennsylvania high school newspaper staff opted to stop including the school's Redskins mascot in their publication, taking up a cause first championed by the Washington City Paper.

Only, the school's administration has told the staff of 21 students that the decision is not theirs to make, according to a Student Press Law Center report (h/t Deadspin).

In a well argued editorial for student newspaper The Playwickian, Langhorne (Pa.) Neshaminy High students published their reasoning for no longer using a nickname they described as "racist" -- a decision supported by two-thirds of the staff.

The Playwickian has come to the consensus that the term ‘Redskin’ is offensive. Whether it’s the most basic dictionary definitions , the opinions of many Native Americans, or a more in-depth look at the word’s origins, the evidence suggesting that ‘Redskin’ is a term of honor is severely outweighed by the evidence suggesting that it is a term of hate. It is for these reasons that The Playwickian editorial board has decided it will no longer use the word ‘Redskin,’ or any derivative such as “‘Skins” within its pages in reference to the students or sports teams of Neshaminy High School.

The word ‘Redskin’ is racist, and very much so. It is not a term of honor, but a term of hate. “Our children look at us when they hear this term with questions on why people would use this hateful word,” said Chief Bob Red Hawk member of the Lenape Nation.

Regardless of how anyone in the school district feels about a nickname that is shared with just one other school in Pennsylvania (Sayre High), The Playwickian staff should be praised by administrators and teachers for making their voices heard in a remarkably mature manner. After all, the students even published their staff's own dissenting view.

Yet, Neshaminy High principal Rob McGee emailed Tara Huber, a longtime English teacher who serves as an adviser to the student newspaper's staff, so she forwarded the email to the students who are supposed to have complete control over editorial decisions under both the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and the state's own "freedom of expression" policy under the Constitution of the Commonwealth.

The email, according to Playwickian editor-in-chief Gillian McGoldrick, reportedly stated, "I don't think you have the right to not use the word Redskins," demanded the students continue accepting advertisements depicting the mascot and called for a hearing to discuss the matter further on Nov. 19.

Soon afterwards, McGoldrick told the SPLC, Neshaminy vice principal Tom Magdelinskas submitted a full-page ad paid for by a 1972 alum that read: "Neshaminy Redskins, nearly a century of school and community, history pride and tradition, go Skins."

While both McGee and Madelinskas refused to comment, Neshaminy school board president Ritchie Webb told the SPLC, "Whenever we use the term ‘Redskin,’ it is only in a positive light. 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?”

Huh? Not sure what that even means, but wouldn't it follow that you're also allowed to not use "Redskins" if you want to? Rightfully, The Playwickian staff reportedly plans to fight the administration's directive, but also fears their advisor might face repercussions.

In what world is it OK for a school to demand students use a term they feel is offensive?

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Prep Rally on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at preprallyblog@yahoo.com or follow Prep Rally on Twitter!

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