A Pennsylvania high school newspaper faculty advisor and editor-in-chief were reportedly suspended this week over their refusal print the word “redskin,” according to the Student Press Law Center.
Last fall, the student newspaper’s editorial board decided they would no longer print the word “redskin,” the name of the school's mascot. After a drawn out battle with the Neshaminy School District administration, which contended that the newspaper could not make such a decision, the school board voted to allow the paper to omit the word from news pieces, but not opinion pieces, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
But when the newspaper’s staff still refused to print the word in full when publishing a letter to the editor in June, the editor-in-chief and faculty advisor were slapped with penalties. According to the Student Press Law Center, the paper used dashes to replace all letters after "R" in "Redskins," against the principal's request that the entire word be printed in the opinion section, to which the letter was submitted.
This month, The Playwickian’s editor-in-chief, Gillian McGoldrick was suspended from her position until the end of September, while the faculty advisor, Tara Huber, was suspended for two days without pay this week, reports the Student Press Law Center. The district superintendent, Robert Copeland, also deducted $1,200 from the newspaper’s account.
Huber was reportedly suspended for neglecting her duties, because she was not present when students discussed what to do about the opinion article last June, says the outlet.
Copeland told The Huffington Post that he could not go into details about the situation since it was a personnel matter. However, he said that existing information about the situation is "incorrect."
A number of news outlets around the country, including The Washington Post, have banned the word “redskin” from their pages, a term deemed offensive to some Native American groups.
Additionally, a Center for American Progress report from July argued that Native American mascots can be harmful to the self-esteem of Native students.
"When you have kids in schools who are getting harassed, who are feeling a lack of self-worth because they themselves have become a mascot for someone else, I think that's really what the point is all about,” Erik Stegman, author of the report, told The Huffington Post at the time.
Across the country, a group of student journalists in California started a fundraising effort for the Neshaminy High School students. The fundraising campaign says it seeks to raise “$1,200 to cover money docked from The Playwickian budget” and “$1,200 to cover Adviser Tara Huber's two days of lost pay due to suspension.” As of Friday afternoon, the effort had already raised over $2,100.
"The main question I asked my board is, how would we feel if this happened to our publication?" Canela Lopez, editor-in-chief of the newspaper at Foothill Technology High School in California told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We want to make sure we stand up."