School officials at Neshaminy High School in Pennsylvania have issued suspensions for the student editor and faculty adviser of the student newspaper there after the paper refused to print the word “Redskins,” the racist nickname of the school’s athletic teams.
Gillian McGoldrick, the paper’s student Editor-in-Chief, was suspended from the paper for a month. The paper’s faculty adviser Tara Huber was also suspended without pay for two days by district Superintendent Robert Copeland for failing to stop the students from moving ahead with their ban on the word.
Tensions between the school’s administration and the editors of Playwickian have been building for nearly a year. Twice the editors of the Playwickian announced they would not print the name of the school’s mascot because it is offensive to Native Americans, opting instead to run it as “R——-“, and twice principal Rob McGee threatened to discipline the paper and any editors who refused to print the word. McGee also reportedly confiscated copies of the paper during a meeting with McGoldrick in June, deducted $1,200 from the paper’s account, and attempted to block access to the paper’s social media accounts.
The case got so heated that it has attracted the attention of press freedom advocates at the Student Press Law Center, who stepped in last fall to help defend the editors in case school officials followed through with their threats. Any disciplinary action taken by the public school could leave the district open to legal action for violating students’ free speech, an attorney at the SPLC told Poynter in July.
That was not enough to stop administrators from issuing suspensions this week.
Numerous national news outlets have publicly stated that they would no longer print the offensive term when covering Washington, D.C.’s football team, the most prominent organization that still uses the mascot. And Phil Simms, who will be covering Washington’s nationally-televised Thursday Night Football game last week as the lead football analyst for CBS Sports, has stated that he will not use the word during the broadcast.
On Wednesday, a student newspaper in Ventura, California launched a campaign on crowdfunding site Indiegogo to help The Playwickian raise money to pay for the paper’s expenses. The donation page says that the $2400 goal will be split between the paper’s faculty advisor who was suspended without pay for two days this week and the paper itself, which lost $1200 when school officials deducted it from their account.
As of publication, the campaign has already raised 85 percent of their goal in just two days.