Sticking up for principle -- and doing it wrong:
In Bucks County, Pa., school board overrides student newspaper's ban on use of 'Redskins'Um, no. You don't have an absolute First Amendment right to publish whatever you wnt in the school paper.
... A school board committee in Pennsylvania passed a policy this week that prohibits a school newspaper from banning the word from its pages, according to an article that appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times.
In October, the staff for the school paper, the Playwickian, voted to ban the word, which describes the school's teams and mascot. But on Tuesday night, a Neshaminy school board committee decided the newspaper does not have that right, with one board member citing the First Amendment rights of students who want to contribute to the publication. "If my son wants to write something proud about being a Redskin football player, the students on that paper, under the law, have no right to tell him he has to take the word 'Redskin' out of there," school board member Steve Pirritano said, according to the Courier Times....
The Playwickian's editor, Gillian McGoldrick, told the Courier Times that the newspaper's staff voted 14 to 7 to ban the word after conversations and research on the subject....
I'm sure right-wingers would cheer the committee's decision to nullify the staff vote -- but this is not very different from adult interventions in young people's lives that are routinely denounced by right-wingers, and blamed on liberalism. Right-wingers rail against the "everyone gets a trophy" approach to youth sports; this is basically "everybody gets an editorial policy." One of the lessons kids learn from school newspapers is how newspapers work. Newspapers have editors. Publishing decisions are made that don't please everyone. This is, more or less, a microcosm of the real world. (Maybe at another school there's a kid who can't get an article on Elizabeth Warren or the Robin Hood tax published because the editors reserve way too many column inches for sports.) And in this case, the policy was put to a vote. So let the kids have their policy.
This isn't a big story on the right, as far as I know. It might not break through unless there's an aggrieved young writer who's denied the chance to use the word "Redskins" in a story, at which point he or she will become a victim of totalitarianism ("First they came for the student journalists..."). (As far as I can tell, no actual student is claiming censorship.) There would have to be a villain as well, presumably an effete liberal editor whose family almost certainly like granite countertops.
I don't agree with what the committee has done, but I think it's legal -- in the 1988 Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier case, the Supreme Court ruled that educators can impose restrictions on school-sponsored papers. The restrictions must be "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns," the Court said. In the particular case in question, that meant censoring a student article on contraception, which was deemed inappropriate for fourteen-year-old students. What would be the "legitimate pedagogical concern" in this case? I'm sure the current Court, if asked, would think of something.
The paper's staff has already won a victory, however: the story in the Bucks County Courier Times ends this way:
Following the school newspaper's ban of the word "Redskin," the editorial boards of the Bucks County Courier Times and its sister papers, The Intelligencer and The Burlington County Times, approved a similar policy. The word will not be printed in the newspapers, used online or stated in video reports in reference to Neshaminy sports teams or Washington's NFL franchise except in stories dealing specifically with the controversy surrounding the name.Well done.
Via Keith Olbermann, who weighs in here: