PHILADELPHIA – Editors at a suburban Philadelphia high school newspaper plan to resume a ban on the word "Redskins," even though the principal has told them they cannot do so, according to a law firm.
The firm, which says it represents a dozen Neshaminy High School newspaper editors and their parents, has warned school officials that any attempt to enforce the principal's directive would violate their clients' constitutional rights.
"Because the directive is plainly unconstitutional, the students will proceed in accordance with their published policy and, if disciplined for doing so, will take action to defend their rights," said the letter sent last week by attorneys at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz.
The dispute between Playwickian editors and school officials began after the students wrote an October editorial saying the newspaper would bar use of the word Redskins, the nickname of the school's teams. Native American activists and others have challenged use of the same nickname for Washington's National Football League team.
Principal Rob McGee called their motives "valiant" but said he didn't think the issue of whether the word was offensive had been decided yet on a national level. The principal, who said he consulted with the school solicitor and others, also called it "a First Amendment issue running into another First Amendment issue" pitting the rights of one group of students against another, since all students are required to publish an article for course credit and shouldn't be barred from writing the team's name.
McGee told The Philadelphia Inquirer in an email earlier this week that "those skilled in interpretations of the law" will work to find a solution. If an accord cannot be reached, he said, "then the courts will define a new standard to fit our particular situation in Neshaminy," which is named for the creek where the Lenape Indians once lived.