High school admin infringed on editorial autonomy

By seeking retribution against their student newspaper, a Pennsylvania high school’s administration has acted unconstitutionally and incredibly childish.

Last October, the Editorial Board of the Playwickian, Neshaminy High School’s student newspaper, wrote in an editorial that they’d no longer be publishing their school’s team name — “Redskins.” The name is regarded as a racial slur.

For their June issue, the Playwickian received a letter to the editor that repeatedly used the team name. The student staff wanted to replace all but the first letter with dashes — the treatment used for racial slurs according to Associated Press style.

Principal Rob McGee reviewed the issue before it was printed and gave the students an ultimatum — either print the word in full, or don’t print the paper at all. The student editors later decided unanimously to print the word as a racial slur.

As punishment, faculty advisor Tara Huber was given a two-day, no-pay suspension, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief received a one-month suspension from her position and the school board superintendent deducted $1,200 from the newspaper’s account.

There’s no point in having a newspaper if an administration is overlooking, influencing and censoring its content. There’s no point in having a student newspaper if students aren’t the ones publishing it.

The purpose of a high school newspaper is for young reporters to learn independence and the fundamentals of journalism. A newspaper’s vital responsibility is to serve its readership, not to serve a school’s administration or any governing body.

The Playwickian's content shouldn’t be vetted at the principal’s discretion; a faculty advisor provides more than sufficient oversight. The financial penalty levied on the newspaper was a childish and sadistic move on the part of the superintendent.

The staff of the Playwickian and Huber should be commended for their conviction to print the team name as a racial slur. The students should be admired for their willingness to take that first step in their community, despite the forces against them.

Journal Editorial Board

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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