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Censorship strikes Playwickian again

Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Jane Blystone
PA School Press Association president

sprclogoToday was one of many days I have talked to students from Neshaminy High School in eastern Pa. over the past three years regarding censorship of their school newspaper, the Playwickian. Once again censorship is lifting its ugly head under different student editors and has now escalated to compelling students to write content the principal wants published, not stories students have agreed to write and publish.

The issue:

One student editor wanted to publish a story in this month’s issue about a pageant for guys in said school called Mr. R—— (the pejorative name for Native Americans) that took place in in March. The majority of the editorial board did not agree to using the pejorative term. As per a 2014 agreement after a national blowout about the pejorative term, students editors have the right to redact the term or not run the story. The student editor, who reported on the story was not satisfied that that word would be redacted, so took the issue up with the principal. The principal demanded it be run unredacted. The editors chose to post the story with the term redacted.

A result:

The adviser resigned effective at the end of this year because she refuses to force student journalists to print the word in their publication as the principal has directed (compelling content)  and the website has been locked down today by the principal (censorship) as you can see here:

How can you and your student journalists help? Simply write letters to these media outlets in their area supporting student rights to choose content and right to edit as per their printed policy.

Here is the principal’s email as well.

Also post thoughts and support on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #freetheplaywickian. Their Twitter acct. and Facebook acct. are not under auspice of the school but private accounts students own.  If you go to these sites, you can also see what the students have posted about the incident. You can also post, share  and retweet at these social media sites to support them.

Yes, they have contacted JEA SPRC, the SPLC and others. They are doing all the RIGHT things for support. Now I am asking you to help. These students are still fighting this many years-long battle to choose what they will and will not publish without interference from administration, as per our state code regarding Student Free Expression.


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The R-Word and the WaPo

Posted by on Aug 24, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


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. [pullquote]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.[/pullquote]

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.

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