In Bucks County, Pa., school board overrides student newspaper’s ban on use of ‘Redskins’

Daniel Snyder isn’t alone in standing by the use of “Redskins” as a team name.

A school board committee in Pennsylvania passed a policy this week that prohibits a school newspaper from banning the word from its pages, according to an article that appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times.

In October, the staff for the school paper, the Playwickian, voted to ban the word, which describes the school’s teams and mascot. But on Tuesday night, a Neshaminy school board committee decided the newspaper does not have that right, with one board member citing the First Amendment rights of students who want to contribute to the publication. “If my son wants to write something proud about being a Redskin football player, the students on that paper, under the law, have no right to tell him he has to take the word ‘Redskin’ out of there,” school board member Steve Pirritano said, according to the Courier Times.

The use of “Redskins” as a team name has come under increased scrutiny in the past year, with tribal leaders, lawmakers and civil rights groups describing it as racial slur against Native Americans. Nationally, several media outlets have banned the term, and some sports commentators, including NBC Sports anchor Bob Costas, have spoken out against it.

Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins football team, has repeatedly defended the name, calling it a “badge of honor” in a letter to fans.

The Playwickian’s editor, Gillian McGoldrick, told the Courier Times that the newspaper’s staff voted 14 to 7 to ban the word after conversations and research on the subject.

“What we are trying to do is not to compel speech, we’re just editing as editors do,” she is quoted as saying. “And also my name goes on this, and when my name goes on that paper just as Neshaminy school district’s name goes on that paper and I don’t want to be publishing something that is racially offensive.”

The article says that the policy could go in effect May 6 and that the newspaper’s staff plans to consult its own counsel before deciding on a next step.

Regardless of what happens, it seems the newspaper has already been successful in limiting the word’s use in its area.

The article ends with this note: “Following the school newspaper’s ban of the word ‘Redskin,’ the editorial boards of the Bucks County Courier Times and its sister papers, The Intelligencer and The Burlington County Times, approved a similar policy. The word will not be printed in the newspapers, used online or stated in video reports in reference to Neshaminy sports teams or Washington’s NFL franchise except in stories dealing specifically with the controversy surrounding the name.”

Theresa Vargas is a reporter for the Post’s local enterprise team.
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