An open letter to Rob McGee, principal, Neshaminy High School, Langhorne, PA:
I am given to understand that you have, among other things:
- Insisted that the Neshaminy High School student newspaper use the ethnic slur “Redskins” in its news coverage of the school.
- Suspended the paper’s faculty advisor, Tara Huber, for failing to enforce your order to this effect with the student journalists. (This advisor was the 2014 Pennsylvania School Press Association’s Journalism Teacher of the Year.)
- Placed a reprimand in the advisor’s personnel file.
- Suspended the paper’s editor-in-chief, Gillian McGoldrick, from the paper for a month refusing to carry out your instructions.
In short, if there is a way you could have more thoroughly screwed this pooch, neither you nor I have been able to discern it.
- The term “Redskin” is, as a matter of fact, an ethnic slur. You may disagree, but your opinion doesn’t change that fact. Your school should have replaced it long ago.
- Accordingly, while you might have had the legal right to insist that the paper use that term, it was not the right thing to do either from a journalistic standpoint or from an instructional one.
- Moreover, your disciplining of the paper’s faculty advisor clearly violated her First Amendment rights. You can argue insubordination all you like, but the bottom line is that she was disciplined for taking a stand on a First Amendment issue, and no perfume on God’s earth is going to cover up the stink.
- Finally, your suspension of the paper’s editor in chief, far from imparting any sort of worthwhile lesson to that student or others working for the paper, is only going to unite the students more firmly against you while making you look mean and petty.
Good luck unscrewing that pooch.