Censorship

High School Newspaper Editor, Adviser Suspended for Refusing to Print a Particular Word

|

"By shortening the word, it's no longer a slur, right?"

Back when I was a high school journalist, we all got in trouble for the things we put in the newspaper, like all good nerdy, opinionated teens are obligated to do. But over at Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, the editor of the school newspaper has been suspended from her role for a month and the newspaper's faculty adviser was suspended for two days, all because of what the newspaper decided to leave out.

Now is the point where we explain that Neshaminy High School's mascot is the Redskin. The student editors of the newspaper have decided to stop using the word, largely understood to be a racial slur. The Student Press Law Center provides more information:

Robert Copeland, the superintendent of Neshaminy School District, suspended adviser Tara Huber on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Maddy Buffardi, the newspaper's opinion editor. Huber, who won the Pennsylvania School Press Association's Journalism Teacher of the Year award this year, is an English teacher and adviser to the student newspaper at Neshaminy High School in Langhorne.

Huber's suspension relates to the student editors' effort last school year to remove the word "Redskins" from their newspaper. For The Playwickian's June issue, a student had submitted a letter to the editor that used the word "Redskins" — the school's mascot — several times. The staff replaced all but the first letter with dashes, following The Associated Press style for slurs. In his prior review of the issue, Principal Ron McGee told the students to print the word in full or not print the paper at all.

While student editors discussed what to do about the issue, Huber left the classroom.

"We all decided unanimously that we're going to send the paper to print the way that we feel comfortable sending the paper to print," Buffardi said.

To be clear, they suspended the adviser without pay for this. Apparently leaving the classroom to let the editors decide what to do constituted "neglecting her duties."

Apparently this conflict has been going on for a little while. An attorney with the Student Press Law Center took a dim view of the case in an interview with media site Poynter:

The school board's policy that prevents editors from removing "redskins" in submissions to the newspaper could open up the district to legal action because it imposes an unconstitutional restriction on the students editors' free speech, Adam Goldstein, an attorney for the Student Press Law Center, told Poynter. This rule is particularly egregious, Goldstein said, because it purports to force students to adopt a certain kind of speech. Because of this, Goldstein does not think it can survive legal challenge.

"It may be possible to get dumber people on a school board, but I don't how you go about it," Goldstein said.

Advertisement

NEXT: Obama Might Send Armed Soldiers, On the Ground, to Help Fight ISIS—But Don't Worry, They Won't Be 'Ground Troops'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “It may be possible to get dumber people on a school board, but I don’t how you go about it,” Goldstein said.

    Goldstein clearly hasn’t seen my local school board in action.

  2. What a total tempest in a teapot.

  3. “It may be possible to get dumber people on a school board, but I don’t how you go about it,” Goldstein said.

    Goldstein is way optimistic in this case.

  4. largely understood to be a racial slur.

    Assuming the conclusion, here?

    1. My potatoes are racist?

      1. Only if they’re from Idaho.

    2. Yeah, my comment exactly.

      I was going to say,

      “The student editors of the newspaper have decided to stop using the word, largely understood something SJWs have decided must be a racial slur, because they need to invent victims to stand on

  5. The first amendment doesn’t mean you don’t have a right not to sometimes talk or something, because not all not talking is protected non speech.

  6. racial slur

    Shouldn’t that be “racial s—” or “r—– —-“?

    1. – —- —- ——–. — —- — —– —- —- — – ——-? —– —- —- —- — —— — —!

      1. *claps hand over mouth, looks on with bug eyes*

  7. So, a student journalist was suspended only from the newspaper for refusing to follow the editorial policies of the newspaper’s owner (the school)? The First Amendment doesn’t give you the right to publish anything you want with someone else’s paper. If you don’t like the school’s editorial policy, quit and start your own independent paper–and if you get punished for that, then you sue.

    1. Exactly. If Jeff Bezos were to tell the editorial board of the Washington Post to cut out the posturing and use the name of the Washington Redskins in their editorials, he’d be perfectly within his rights to show them the door if they said no. Because, ultimately, it’s *his* newspaper, not theirs.

      1. No he wouldn’t because “you aren’t the boss of me dad.” It’s almost like a lot of libertarians think that is what freedom boils down to never having to restrain the ego and follow the rules.

  8. So she is editor of the newspaper, but she refused to print the actual name of the mascot for the school she is supposed to cover.

    And this makes her a hero for free speech and liberty.

    Got it.

    *inserts long nail into cerebral cortex*

  9. I’ve never through of “redskins” as a slur. It might be racially offensive to some people, but I’ve never felt it had the negative connotations you normally associate with slurs.
    Nobody uses “Redskin” as an insult to Native Americans, AFAIK. It just doesn’t have that kind of power.

    I think the high school paper was being overly PC, and also unfair to the student whose letter they were censoring.

    Whose side are we on, the right of PC campus liberal to censor letters ot the editor, or the side of the student writing the letter to the editor using the word “redskins”.

    Also , by editring his letter they are implicitly calling him a racist.

    1. I’d put redskin below spic, well below nigger, well above chinaman and slightly above cracker, but below pinky, on the scale of racial slurs.

      1. I live in Montana–the land of a thousand reservations. I’ve never heard Redskin used in a derogatory fashion, ever.

        Now, prairie nigger, I’ve heard, and I can agree that’s a little offensive.

        1. Timber nigger in northern Wisconsin.

          1. That’s beautiful. Sounds more like a slur for lumberjacks to me, thought.

      2. That’s might white of you!

      3. In origin, the term definitely was not a slur. It was used and apparently originated by Native Americans. It is *possible* that it became a slur, particularly in some areas, on the basis of American Indians being a relatively low status group. Simple fact is that *any* term used for a low status group can (and often will) become a slur. “Chinaman” is an example, as on its face it is not offensive, but was used as such much, much worse than “redskin” or “redman” has ever been used in my experience.

        It’s true that Native American activists decided at some point that it was a slur and have been pushing the idea, and they have had some success in recent years. If it becomes offensive, fine. But it’s certainly not yet “widely understood” to be a slur.

        1. This is separate from the issue of whether it ever makes sense to use a different ethnic or racial group as a mascot. But in that sense Redskins is no worse than Braves or Indians. Though UNC Pembroke is allowed by the NCAA to use Braves since it’s a historically Native American college that is still mostly American Indian in its student body. They’re not offending themselves anymore than the Fighting Irish or Vikings.

          1. I am still disappoint that Eastern MI dropped “Hurons” and became the “Eagles”…esp when the Huron chief was supportive of the term.

            Central MI is still the Chippewas….for now.

    2. Yeah, I just don’t see it as a slur either. It sounds dated and silly if you actually use it to refer to American Indians, but I have never heard it used deliberately to insult anyone. And the only people bothered by it seem to be people who make careers of being bothered by stupid things and their hyper-PC followers.

    3. I’ve never through of “redskins” as a slur.

      Because it is not. It is a term for native american warriors who were regarded for their bravery in battle.

  10. In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.

    I despise the editorial practice of truncating vulgarities and replacing them with dashes. All modern bowdlerism does is to hypersensitize people to particular words and encourage their use for shock value or excluding people who don’t share your sensitive, inclusive values.

    1. F— yeah! W— y– said!

    2. +1 n-word.

    3. Especially if the dirty word is part of the story. If they quote someone who casually says “fuck” a lot and make it dashes, I won’t get too worked up (though I wouldn’t censor it if I were the editor). But if it has any relevance to the story, it’s just stupid.

  11. …largely understood to be a racial slur.

    Is it?

    1. To grievance mongers it sure is.

    2. I still like to drop “chink in their armor” into conversations periodically just to see if anyone bites.

      Cause I’m a dickhead troll like that…

      1. My accounting professor in college chewed me out one day for offhandedly saying I was gypped.

        How was I supposed to know she apparently considered herself a Romany in spirit? After she was done railing on my racism, I told her I would just say “Jewed” from now on.

        She was not impressed.

        1. I feel bad for Romany people who make a legitimate living and have to deal with the stereotypes. But until more of the ones living more traditionally stop picking pockets and aggressively telling fortunes and selling bullshit, those stereotypes aren’t going away.

          1. Well, yeah, the gypsies who actually camp out on your lawn and fuck up your property, like my friend in Hungary – yeah, a few bad apples…

            1. You know who else had a few bad apples that spoiled the bunch?

              1. Michael Jackson?

              2. Every police force in the US ever?

        2. +10 wordplay.

  12. I stopped reading when I got to the 15th word of he second paragraph and was too offended by Mr. Shackford’s using a racial slur to continue — did I miss anything?

    1. The slope and the nigger get it from the zipperhead and the wetback in the end.

      1. “Zipperhead” is racial? Who does that refer to?

        1. The gooks. Well, at least SOME gooks. i don’t think it applies to flips.

          It all runs together after awhile – need some green-eyeshade kike accountant to sort through it all.

  13. This is no more a speech issue than is the Times publishing an article discussing ones’ desire to rape the Queen of England and its owners firing the editor for gross incompetence. The Redskin is their fucking mascot; kind of difficult to cover school sports without reference to it and the delicate sensibilities of the local club of PC morons is not sufficient reason to not do your fucking job. There’s lots of awful stuff going on the world: reporters are paid to report on these goings-on, regardless of their personal feels — and yes, in the real world they can be fired for not doing that job because they choose to misinterpret a situation or bring their political or religious views into their reportage.

    Can the bitch.

    1. I think it depends on what the school says the purpose of the student paper is. If the school wants to be the publisher/final editor, fine. But the mission of a student run paper is often to give students a chance to, you know, run a paper. Of course there is going to be some oversight, but I’d think it should be more just to make sure nothing slanderous or plainly false gets published rather than to police the editorial decisions of the students who are supposedly running hte paper.

      1. Considering how high-school politics works, I wouldn’t be surprised if the newspaper edits just didn’t like the kid who wrote the letter and was using his power as editor to basically officially call the student a racist by censoring his letter in the school newspaper.

        Basically I think the newspaper editor was being a dick to another student he didn’t like.

        1. This is a very good point I hadn’t considered before. My wife taught HS for years – this is totally within the range of “normal HS people behavior”.

      2. But the mission of a student run paper is often to give students a chance to, you know, run a paper.

        I’d think part of that job would involve staying in the same room as your newspapers’ policy is being discussed. I wouldn’t tolerate running off like a child from one of my employees; you can be a bit more lax with HS students but even then a kid who doesn’t show up to practice is gonna get kicked off the team. Same principle applies here, I think.

    2. it’s never wrong to fire anyone associated with education.

  14. Hell its not even widely regarded by Native Americans to be a slur:

    In the only recent poll to ask native people about the subject, 90 percent of respondents did not consider the term offensive, although many question the cultural credentials of the respondents.

    http://washington.cbslocal.com…..is-a-slur/

    1. If they don’t agree with the grievance mongering, they obviously lack the “cultural credentials”.

    2. The self-hate and false consciousness – it BURNS

    3. Well, the official grievance mongers like AIM aren’t well beloved on most reservations.

      The father of one of my indian classmates once told me that AIM stood for Assholes in Moccasins.

  15. I think censoring “redskins” is very silly. But requiring its use seems like an odd thing to have a policy about.

    1. So you’ll be running for the school board, then. Good luck!

      1. I’ll write myself in, anyway.

  16. It’s how you use a word more than the word itself. I can say “white people” in a manner that is meant to be insulting. Black people use the n word with a positive connotation all of the time. If I’m giving myself or my team a name than most likely I mean to pay homage to the traits associated with them, not be disparaging or hateful.

    1. In fact, I would say that assuming redskin is a slur instead of a complement can itself be interpreted as being racist.

      1. I assume that every grievance monger is a racist and work backward from there.

        That tactic has never failed me. People who give a shit about racial identity are always virulently racist.

  17. Thank god they aren’t writing for the old Memphis minor league baseball team.

    They would have had the vapors covering the Memphis Chicks.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memphis_Chicks

    So to answer the alt text question. No, shortening the original name of Chickasaws to Chicks, didn’t make their name much more PC.

    The logo also has the full headdress too.
    http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files…..1385522393

  18. That newspaper editor should stick to her guns. Way to take a stand against the administration!

  19. So supporting PC censorship is libertarian now?

    1. Wait you didn’t think the embrace of social leftism would stop with shitting on Christians did you?

  20. “An attorney with the Student Press Law Center . . .”

    The what?

    Is that a real thing? As in, like, there’s a team of lawyers in an office somewhere, who are totally dedicating their professional lives to the editorial freedom of high school newspaper editors?

    1. You know what they call the guy who graduates last in his class from law school?

  21. All I know is that my friend who is Navajo/Zuni, and a fairly staunch Native-Pride kind of guy, was wearing one of his Washington Redskins T-shirts again last night. He LOVES the Redskins.

  22. So Goldstein sees a First Amendment issue with the paper treating the name of the mascot as some “politically-incorrect” slur – but no issue with the paper censoring a student letter to the Editor?

    It may be possible to get a dumber person parading as an attorney, but I don’t how you go about it.

  23. The war of what’s an insulting word continues. The government’s position, is it should decide.

    In the Washington Redskin’s case, the Patent Office decided. In this Pennsylvania High School, the government school decided. It’s just that in one case, it decided using Redskin was racist and prohibited it, and in the other, it required a student to use it.

    How can this be protecting our lives, property, liberty and pursuit of happiness? It can’t be a legitimate function of government.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.