The Editorial Review Board of the Foothill Dragon Press has voted to defend the rights of the Playwickian staff. Credit: Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press

The Editorial Review Board of the Foothill Dragon Press has voted to defend the rights of the Playwickian staff, a student publication threatened by its administrators. Credit: Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press

The freedom of students attending Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, Pa., will hang in the balance on Tuesday evening, as Neshaminy School Board members vote to revise district policy to force student editors to publish content with a word that they have determined is racially offensive.

Student journalists of the Playwickian, the high school’s paper, published an editorial in October condemning the use of the school’s mascot name, the “Redskins.” Similar to the criticism faced by the “Washington Redskins” football team, the staff of the Playwickian criticized the school’s continued use of the word, which they find to be blatantly racist.

As an act of sensitivity and professionalism the staff voted to no longer use the “R-word” when publishing articles about the high school’s teams. A short time later, three professional publications in the area followed suit, also passing policy against using the term in video reports and articles about Neshaminy and the professional football team.

Playwickian editors wrote, “If racist institutions had remained in other areas of society simply because they were time-honored traditions, America would be a vastly different place.”

The Neshaminy High School administration was not pleased. On Tuesday, April 29, a school board committee recommended new policy that would force the Playwickian to use the school’s official team name in advertisements and letters to the editor. In defense of this new policy, the school’s administration and community members have expressed that the term “Redskins” is not offensive and is a source of school pride.

The Foothill Dragon Press Editorial Review Board has voted 10-0 in support of the rights of the staff of the Playwickian to reject editorial and advertising content that they deem offensive. We believe that the “R-word” promotes a Social Darwinist ideology and strongly urge the Neshaminy School Board to reconsider limiting these students’ freedom of speech.

Because language constantly evolves, control of its use by the government is senseless. A different “R-word,” once considered acceptable to describe the mentally disabled, also fell out of favor as communities became aware of the word’s bigotry and the sorrow it elicits. Publications should be given the freedom to adapt to changing morals, and not be chained to standards of the past.

If passed, the detriments brought on by this new policy will be large and plentiful. The message that would be sent to the students is one of disregard and mistrust; the disregard of these students’ views and their right to free speech, and the mistrust held by school board members for high school students and their ability to use good judgement.

This mistrust will not only discourage students from speaking their mind on issues that affect them in high school, but set a precedent that if they do choose to stand up in the face of injustice, they will be forced to take a seat by the establishment.  

Apathy and ignorance towards the world around them is something the Millennial generation of high school students is constantly criticized for, but as soon as a courageous group of students stands up, they are knocked down, undermining what it means to have freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

We also fear that this policy would have the power to climb from county law to state law, or even federal law, in the blink of an eye.

In 1983, a student paper in St. Louis County, Mo., planned to publish a large section in the paper about teen pregnancy. The night before the issue was printed, the school’s principal decided that the spread would jeopardize the identity of the students in it and pulled it from the issue. This dispute made its way up to the Supreme Court, and the ruling was heartbreaking for advocates of student press rights.

Because of this case, better known as Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, school administrators in most states have the right to censor school publications, and it was made clear that students do in fact shed some of their free speech rights as soon as they walk onto a school campus.

The Neshaminy policy could easily turn into another Hazelwood, weakening the already feeble defense student journalists have in regards to their freedom of speech.

Some may ask why it is so important to protect student journalists and the right they have to a free press. The answer is simpler than some may think.

A free press ensures the future of the country as a democratic and uncorrupted state. No matter what page in America’s long history one flips to, there was always a journalist there to keep the central powers in check. Someone there to ask the tough questions that no one had the courage to utter. Someone to point out the mistakes and injustices taking place that everyone seemed keen to ignore. Someone to inform the public when the government would inform no one. Whether it be the Muckrakers of the late 1800s, those covering the atrocities of the Vietnam War, or the pair of journalists who uncovered the Watergate Scandal, journalists have always been there.

However, a free press doesn’t begin in the professional world. It begins in high school, where the small flame of integrity within students is fanned to produce a mighty blaze of truth.

This is why it is crucial to groom a new generation of journalists, just as curious and outspoken as the last.

We ask the members of the Neshaminy High School Board to consider the deep-set ramifications of this new policy. Freedom of speech is important. It is the duty of the older generation to teach this to their young, to empower their young, and to inform their young on what the true meaning of democracy is.

Photo Credit: Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press

16 Responses

  1. Reed Hennessy

    Hello, I am the sports Editor on the Playwickian, thank you so much for writing this editorial. It means so very much to me and the Playwickian to know we have your support.

    Reply
  2. Tim Cho

    Hey, I’m the Student Life Editor from the Playwickian and I hope I am able to fully show our appreciation for the support Foothill Dragon Press has shown. To have a Californian school know us and show support is very heart-warming.

    Reply
  3. Eishna Ranganathan

    Hi, I am the News Editor of the Playwickian and would like to thank you for not only commenting on the mascot controversy but also putting it into a wider spectrum on the future of journalism. Especially with social media, people are more dependent on receiving the news via a technology source and even that is an entire field of press rights to address. The editorial board thanks you for the article.

    Reply
  4. Shea Miles

    Hello, Iam a Special Features Editor from the Playwickian. Thank you addressing our current situation. It means a lot to have support from other student publications.

    Reply
  5. sterlace

    I’m curious… you say “Because language constantly evolves, control of its use by the government is senseless.” I don’t disagree, but do the students not act as representatives of the school when they write in the paper? And are they not controlling the use of the word “Redskins” in that paper by disallowing it? Should full authority of the appropriateness of the language used in the paper (being published by a public high school) rest in the hands of students? I am unclear on where you would suggest the line be drawn on this issue.

    Reply
  6. Robert Hankes

    Thank you, Editorial Board, for going old school and siding with the laws of the United States and Pennsylvania. Let’s keep the press free in PA! Thanks for helping do that.

    Reply
  7. Dave Cole

    I am a Bucks County resident of Native American heritage. Thank you for supporting the heroic students (and their advisor) at Neshaminy HS. It’s difficult to decide which is more disgraceful, the mascot name or the administration’s oppressive treatment of their editorial staff. The actions shown by both your papers makes me very proud of young people in this country.

    Reply
    • REAL AMERICAN LIFE

      You are not a real American but another communist troll supporting this imported antiAmerican hate junk posting from across the ocean. If these little rat communist “students” want to hate America so much they better be prepared for more than schoolyard bullying. The enemy always loses.

      Reply
      • Anonymous and Audacious

        Real American Life, I am unable to even comprehend the stupidity of your comment. Are you always this angry, or is it only when your evidently bigoted lifestyle is threatened by the disuse of an offensive term?

        Reply
        • Penn State

          So, you’re saying the Americans are bigoted against you british eurasians for protecting themselves, but you with your brain-damaged little hate-spewing communist rag paper can tell Americans they can’t be or do who they are or want. You’re attacking the wrong hemisphere, commie. America will help take you out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Reply
          • Anonymous and Audacious

            So apparently I’m a British Communist now? Alright, kids, let me explain in a language that maybe you can understand. In this century (not the 18th century, or wherever you’re from), it is considered racist by many people to use the term “Redskins”, and it often has a negative connotation in this century. Now, let’s compare the two of us, shall we, “Penn State”? You’re accusing me of “attacking” this hemisphere. Attacking means “to take aggressive action against something”. I’m telling you this because I believe you used the word incorrectly. I am not attacking my own country. Neither is this publication. In fact, the only attacking I see here is coming from you, because you are twisting the meaning of this article and my comment into something completely different.

            Oh, and by the way? Freedom of speech, which is what this article is advocating for, is a Constitutional right. People who support the Playwickian are supporting this right, something that makes us uphold American values more than your hateful ranting self.

            So, I advise you to take a break from horribly misinterpreting things on the internet and writing weak rants full of childish name calling. Maybe call someone you love. Walk your dog. Do something else. It’s unhealthy to live so hatefully.

  8. NewsWorld

    The Americans, the real Redskins, are laughing at this junk import propaganda newspaper by these alien foreign-exchange students who hate America and all Americans with such a bridled and sinister passion. It seems time for this school to stop publishing this terrorist communist Nitpickian fake newspaper and to start a new one with a better, smarter, more appropriate American staff. They get an F-minus for effort and hate propaganda and a permanent expulsion from school and from America is in order for each of these terrifying blatantly-dumb enemy “children”.

    Reply
    • Anonymous and Audacious

      Are you serious?

      Is this a joke?

      Alright, first of all, it seems a bit pathetic of you to call names and rant, especially when it’s clear that you have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m going to assume that you either have the IQ of a cabbage, or that you have so much free time that you start fights on the internet to entertain yourself. So, I’m just going to tell you to read the article before you comment, because I actually feel embarrassed for you.

      Reply

Got something to say about this?