by Matt Schott August 22, the Washington Post editorial board decided to no longer use the term Redskins in its editorials (I believe it will live on in the sports and news sections).
This is a decision that seems to be pretty roundly lauded, particularly by Native American groups who’ve been fighting for this change for years. And it is a decision to be lauded. Continuing to use a racial epithet as a team name is unacceptable.
However, let’s not get hurt ourselves patting the WaPo editorial board on the back for its decisions. While it is, by far, the most prominent editorial board to refuse to do this (and likely one of the most influential), it is not the first.
No, for that, you would need to travel to Pennsylvania.
Specifically, to Neshaminy High School.
Even more specifically, you’d need to visit with the student editors of The Playwickian, Neshaminy’s student newspaper.
While it is, by far, the most prominent editorial board to refuse to do this (and likely one of the most influential), it is not the first. No, for that, you would need to travel to Pennsylvania. Specifically, to Neshaminy High School.
In a decision that raised the ire of students, their principal and their school board, the editorial board of The Playwickian decided to no longer use the term Redskins (which is the school mascot) more than a year ago. A year.
And for that past year, they’ve been locked in battles with those aforementioned groups, fighting the principal who overturned their ban. The editorial board continued to defy its principal, threatening legal action if the school district continued fighting the ban.
The students’ mettle was tested when a student submitted a letter to the editor using the word, disagreeing with the editorial board’s decision. The editors chose to run it with the word Redskins changed to R——-.
Administrators ordered it to run unedited. The editorial board pulled it, choosing to run white space instead. The timing from the WaPo dovetails nicely with these students’ fight.
While I’d imagine this was announced because the NFL season kicking off in early September, this is also the time of year where students head back to school.
It would be great, as the student editors at Neshaminy headed back to their student newsroom – if the Washington Post, one of the vanguards of American journalism in the last 50 years – would provide a tip of the hat to these student journalists who showed them where the path of right was on this issue.
Perhaps the Post could send a letter to the students on staff, offer some advice or something of that sort. So often in the scholastic journalism classroom, it is students who look to the professionals for ideas and inspiration.
In this case, it’s the professionals who stand on the shoulders of giants. They should acknowledge this.
Looking for discussion starters for the end of school?
For the latest on three nationally ongoing censorship issues, check out:
Fond du Lac, WI
• Neshaminy board tables controversial publication policy changes
• Controversial Neshaminy policy going back to committee
• Why forcing a student newspaper to use a racial slur is wrong on so many levels
• Playwickian staff implores Neshaminy board not to adopt policy preventing student newspaper from banning use of ‘Redskin’ mascot name
Heber City, UT
• Altered yearbook photos at Utah high school spark controversy
• School alters girls’ yearbook photos to cover bare skin, is not sorry
• Photoshop a yearbook photo neckline, and you tell a teen to be someone else
• ‘Shoulder-shaming’ girls at Utah high school: Why the big coverup?
• Students say altered yearbook photos meant to shame them (see related stories)
In related coverage of journalism ethics now and in the fall, the question of how altering pictures in student media affects journalism as a whole and creates the potential of multiple ethical lessons.
• Editing yearbook photos not uncommon, says printer
As the national organizations of journalism educators committed to the training of future journalists and the preparation of citizens for life in our democracy, we write to express our vigorous opposition to the proposed policy changes under consideration by the Neshaminy Board of School Directors that relate to school-sponsored student publications
We find the proposed policy changes, which give school officials virtually unlimited authority to censor student journalism even of the highest quality, educationally unsound, constitutionally insufficient and morally indefensible. They are inconsistent with the student media policies recommended by national education experts.
Fond du Lac (WI) High’s English department has submitted a statement supporting student journalists and advocating the need for an open forum for student expression at their school.
Student journalists there have been in a prior review and restraint battle with school officials over a story on rape, called “Rape Joke.”
Kettle Moraine Press Association director Linda Barrington also noted the students aired a video on school announcements March 21, with administration approval. The video had some explanation from the principal about why he thinks the guidelines for prior review are needed.
The video can be seen here.
Arguments made on the video include the general thought that the school would like more oversight, the thought that some of the words used in the story were too edgy, and a reference to the argument the principal has been giving lately that reporters should have gotten the permission from the rapists who may have been involved in the stories of sexual abuse related by the anonymous sources in the “Rape Joke” story.
Barrington said in am email to the Journalism Education Association’s listserv that the next school board meeting for the district is Monday, March 24 at 5 pm at the Fond du Lac School District Administration Center at 72 Ninth St.
“Students are looking for as much support there as possible,” Barrington wrote.
Students journalists have received more than 5,300 signatures on a petition to their superintendent to reverse his prior review and censorship decision.
Additional coverage links:
• Trust kids to speak
• High school student protest censorship of the ‘The Rape Joke,’ school publication restriction
• Fond du Lac student protest censorship mandate for school publication
• High school cracks down on student paper that published rape culture article
•How far is too far? The issue of rape in the high school
• High school administration teaches student journalists valuable lesson: We will censor you early and often
• oped: Rape culture article in school paper leads to censorship policy
• Wisconsin administrators impose prior review after news magazine’s story on sexual assault
• Principal requires approval of high school paper’s stories after rape culture article
• WI school offices seize control over student paper after ‘rape culture’ article appears