Should Neshaminy High School Change Name of Mascot?


Erin Smith

A series of hearings between the Neshaminy School District and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) began on Monday, Jan. 4 after controversy arose over the use of the high school’s mascot name, the “Neshaminy Redskins.”
The name was used to describe the woodland Lenape Indians that previously inhabited the land in the Neshaminy valley.
Numerous members of the PHRC argued that the word is offensive and a racial slur to many indigenous people, while the district makes the case that students and staff do not use the word disrespectfully.
At the meeting, which was held at Bucks County Community College, people were able to make their arguments concerning the name. Speakers included retired U.S. Coast Guard Commander Andre Billeaudeaux, who spent time with Native American tribes, as well as Donna Boyle, a parent of students who attend Neshaminy High School who is also part Choctaw and Cherokee.
According to the Levittown Now website, the attorney who represented the School district, Craig Ginsberg, said the district does not support discrimination and that this issue was not a problem until some students voiced some concerns. He also raised the point that a physical mascot has not been used by the high school since the 1980s.
However, the controversy over the name has been simmering for several years.
In 2014, there were disagreements between students on the school newspaper, The Playwickian, and the school’s administration regarding the use of the name “Redskins” in the paper. Students who edited and wrote stories for the paper decided that the word should not be used and an issue was printed and released with the word shown as “R——“.
The administration under the direction of principal Dr. Robert McGee quickly confiscated copies of that issue of the Playwickian.
Timothy Cho, Web Editor of the Playwickian at the time of this incident, said that the paper submitted the issue to be reviewed by administration where they saw no problem with it: “It was only after the paper was published that the issue arose,” he said.
Cho also said the decision to not use the Redskins name came after members of the paper took a vote as to whether or not they should treat it as a racial slur, following Boyle’s request to the school district to have the name removed.
The Playwickian staff faced a lot of backlash on their decision from both students and school administrators and had to seek council from the Student Press Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Some students and community members still oppose the name change and question whether or not the word is meant to be disrespectful.
In November 2013, McGee told The Associated Press he felt the editors’ motives in refusing to use the name were “valiant” but that he saw the situation as “a First Amendment issue running into another First Amendment issue.”
Current students have a variety of views on the issue.
“I have heard indigenous people say that they really don’t care about the word and don’t find it offensive,” says current Neshaminy senior Hazel Hoelper. “I feel like the school would spend so much time and money trying to change the name where that money could go towards better educational things for the school.”
Liam Scull, who is also a Neshaminy student, thinks that it is up to the students to understand right from wrong.
“I don’t necessarily think the name is racist or offensive. I do agree that people wearing headdresses and face paint shouldn’t be doing that because that is disrespectful and appropriating. They should know where to draw the line between pride for their high school and being blatantly inconsiderate,” Scull said.
The hearings have so far produced no official resolution of the issue.According to Levittown, either the school district or the PHRC can appeal this case to the state court if they don’t receive their desired outcome.