THE STUDENTS who edit the newspaper at Neshaminy High School think the nickname of their Pennsylvania school’s sports teams is racist. They banned its use on their pages, a stance in keeping with that taken on the national scene by those (including us) who object to Washington’s identically named football team.
You would think young people engaging with an important social issue and standing up for something they believe in would be appreciated, even applauded. Instead, school officials suspended the newspaper’s editor, sanctioned the teacher adviser and fined the organization.
“It is one of the most controversial issues in Neshaminy’s history. It is a topic that no one wants to discuss, but one that needs to be discussed,” begins a thoughtful editorial last October in the Playwickian explaining “why we refuse to publish ‘The R-Word.’ ” A battle with school administrators ensued, coming to a head when officials told students they couldn’t publish a letter with “R-------” but must use the complete word. Instead, the students ran a block of white space, which, an editors’ note explained, “represents our resolve to maintain our rights as editors and our determination to eliminate discrimination.”
School administrators, who didn’t respond to our inquiries, removed Gillian McGoldrick from her post as editor in chief for a month, suspended without pay for two days newspaper adviser Tara Huber (who in June had been named “journalism teacher of the year” by the state school press association) and docked $1,200 from its student activity fund. The students are getting support from student press advocates and a successful crowdfunding campaign, but it’s unclear what will happen when the students try to go to press with their next issue.
“We are concentrating on just trying to put out the best newspaper we can,” Ms. McGoldrick told us. People may differ on whether the school’s sports moniker — like that of Washington’s team — is offensive, but there should be no disagreement about journalists exercising their rights. In Neshaminy, it is the students who are behaving like grown-ups. We admire their commitment to stand up for what they think is right.