Playwickian adviser, student editor suspended for defying administrative orders with Redskins ban

PENNSYLVANIA — Amid a months-long battle with administrators for editorial control — sparked by the student staff’s attempt to ban the word “Redskins” from the newspaper’s pages — The Playwickian’s faculty adviser was suspended for two days this week.

Additionally, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Gillian McGoldrick, received a one-month suspension from her position, ending at the end of September.

Robert Copeland, the superintendent of Neshaminy School District, suspended adviser Tara Huber on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Maddy Buffardi, the newspaper’s opinion editor. Huber, who won the Pennsylvania School Press Association’s Journalism Teacher of the Year award this year, is an English teacher and adviser to the student newspaper at Neshaminy High School in Langhorne.

Huber’s suspension relates to the student editors’ effort last school year to remove the word “Redskins” from their newspaper. For The Playwickian’s June issue, a student had submitted a letter to the editor that used the word “Redskins” — the school’s mascot — several times. The staff replaced all but the first letter with dashes, following The Associated Press style for slurs. In his prior review of the issue, Principal Ron McGee told the students to print the word in full or not print the paper at all.

While student editors discussed what to do about the issue, Huber left the classroom.

“We all decided unanimously that we’re going to send the paper to print the way that we feel comfortable sending the paper to print,” Buffardi said.

Ultimately, McGoldrick sent the paper to the printer without the name of the school’s mascot.

Buffardi, who was told Monday of Huber’s suspension, said the adviser was suspended because she neglected duties when she left the classroom while the editors discussed what to do about the letter.

Along with Huber’s two-day suspension without pay, the superintendent also deducted $1,200 from the newspaper’s account, said Jane Blystone, who was the regional director of the Journalism Education Association in October when the principal said the student journalists couldn’t ban the word Redskins and a current member of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission.

Despite these recent developments, Buffardi said she and the staff want to keep fighting for what they believe in.

“It’s scary at this point to do anything because we love Ms. Huber, she’s like our school mom,” she said.

In protest of the suspensions, Buffardi and another editor made black armbands with “two days” written on them so the staff could show solidarity with their adviser.

Huber declined to comment. Robert Copeland, the superintendent, said that he could not comment on a personnel issue.

Blystone, said the district punished Huber in part for what students did, which she said isn’t fair.

“No teacher can keep a student from doing something,” she said. 

SPLC staff writer Anna Schiffbauer can be reached by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 127.