BENSALEM, Pennsylvania — A suburban Philadelphia school board will consider a revised policy on a school newspaper's refusal to print the word "Redskins" when referring to its sports teams or mascot.
A Neshaminy school board committee recommended Tuesday that the full board on Thursday take up the policy that would bar the Bucks County high school newspaper from banning the name of the mascot from its editorials or its letters to the editor, The Bucks County Courier Times (http://bit.ly/1o31BAM) reported.
The changes from the original language approved in April gave students more control over the news section of The Playwickian but retained other restrictions on online comments, prior administrative review and protecting editors from being punished for removing the word.
The newspaper staff voted in October to ban the word "Redskins," calling it a racial slur. Some district officials contend that the students aren't allowed to do that.
"This is a curriculum-related, education-related school district exercise. It is not a newspaper like the Philly Inquirer or any of the other fine newspapers," district attorney Michael Levin said at Tuesday night's committee meeting. "That is why the restrictions can be placed and the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that restrictions like these can be there."
Attorney Matthew Schafer, representing the student editors, said the proposed policy violates state law and the U.S. Constitution and tries to usurp state law.
"As a school board under the First Amendment, you are not allowed to pick winners and losers and that is what this policy attempts to do," he said.
The student editors also objected to a 10-day prior review period, a restriction on endorsing political candidates and restrictions on choosing letters to the editor. Incoming co-editor-in-chief Gillian McGoldrick said such a policy fails to recognize the reality of a student newspaper.
"I have to say that 10 days prior review is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous," she said. "It's like reading a story on your phone and then reading it 10 days later, 13 days later."
The issue resurfaced in the paper's last edition of the school year two weeks ago in regard to a student's letter mentioning the nickname and criticizing the newspaper staff. Although the administration told editors to publish the letter with the nickname, the editors elected not to run the letter and to instead print an editor's note explaining their position.
Information from: Bucks County Courier Times, http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com