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Battle Over 'Redskins' Nickname Rages On...At Pa. High School

On Wednesday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office decided to cancel the Washington Redskins' trademarks on the term "Redskins," deeming it "disparaging of Native Americans."

The Washington professional football team isn't the only place in which this battle is taking place, however. Students at Neshaminy (Pa.) High School are locked in a similar fight over the name "Redskins."

Last fall, the editorial board for the school's student-run newspaper, The Playwickian, voted 14-7 to stop using the name "Redskins," which is the school's mascot. "The change is not being encouraged for the sake of political correctness itself, but for the sake of being respectful and fair to an entire race," the board majority wrote in an unsigned editorial.

However, the school's principal temporarily overturned the ban a few days after the publication of those editorials, saying it was placed "on hold" until the administration could "determine that a school newspaper has such authority and that this policy does not infringe on the rights of others."

This past December, lawyers warned school officials that the students would proceed with their ban of the term "Redskins" and, "if disciplined for doing so, will take action to defend their rights," reported Chris Palmer of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The ongoing battle added another chapter recently, as a Neshaminy senior football player wrote a letter to the paper defending the use of the nickname "Redskins," per The Morning Call. He called the decision to censor the term a "Stalin-esque policy," suggesting that "every student has an equal right to expression allowed under the First Amendment."

The Playwickian ran the letter, but the students changed "Redskins" to "R--------." According to The Morning Call, the school's administration then ordered The Playwickian to run the letter in full, which resulted in the students pulling the letter entirely, replacing it with an editor's note that read in part, "This white space represents our resolve to maintain our rights as editors and our determination to eliminate discrimination."

Once the principal saw the act of defiance, he and other school staff worked swiftly to collect all copies being passed out. The school board is also working to prevent such incidents in the future, with a draft policy deeming The Playwickian "government speech." It would also shutter the paper's website, forcing it onto the district site (where administration would have final say over what does and does not appear), and says the "Redskins" nickname "shall not be construed as a racial or ethnic slur" when referring to the school.

"Basically, they want us to stop acting like journalists," said The Playwickian's editor-in-chief, Gillian McGoldrick, to The Morning Call. "Hopefully, we're going to be able to come back next year and act like a normal newspaper."

Perhaps the USPTO's ruling will give The Playwickian's staff some added ammunition in its ongoing battle over the "Redskins" nickname.

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