Crossfire: PHRC

Madison Pickul, Editor-in-Chief

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has a main goal of enforcing state laws that prohibit discrimination such as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which covers discrimination in employment, housing, commercial property, education and public accommodations; as well as the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act, which is specific to postsecondary education, secondary vocational, and trade schools.

The fact that this is not the first lawsuit or legal battle brought against the Neshaminy School District, works to the advantage of the PHRC.

One of the main points that the PHRC was trying to get across was the fact that Neshaminy did not have any people who practice Native beliefs speaking or even say that they are okay with the term R**skin being used. Another issue is the image that the high school has chosen to represent the mascot is infact a nonindigenous person to this area. Not only is the mascot name itself an issue, the school is also misrepresenting the culture they claim to honor. The fact of the matter is Neshaminy School District has very little Native representation and they are trying to say that by using the term R**skin they are “honoring” the Natives, while in reality they have no idea who it is they are trying to honor.

Where I felt Neshaminy really missed the mark with their defense is their lack of witnesses who are of Native American ancestry or if they were Native American, they were either a very small percentage or didn’t participate in traditional customs. Robert Wood, teacher at Neshaminy is 1/8th Chippewa Indian and admitted he knew next to nothing about his Native American ancestry. Wood felt that the mascot is not offensive or considers the term to be a racial slur. They then had people such as Stephen Pirritano, a member of the school board speak, and he recalled learning about Native Americans by using red paint.Other people like Jessica McClelland, who spoke on behalf on Neshaminy admitted while in high school she originally did not find the term to be offensive, and she even wrote an article where the term was used several times. However after she graduated, McClelland realized that term was offensive and changed her stance.

A woman Mabel Negrete, who is of indigenous descent from Chili, is not okay with the use of the term R**skin as a mascot name. While she didn’t speak at the hearing, she sat in on it and recalled what the the PHRC had asked witnesses the previous day. They asked, “What is it that you are honoring by using the word?” According to Negrete they mostly said it was the bravery of the Natives. However when they were asked what specific tribe they were honoring, none of them knew. Negrete referred that as an, “interesting phenomenon of people wanting to honor Native American…history, but they have no clue what our history is.”

Higher ups in the district, like Robert McGee, the head of Secondary Education, took the stand that friday and admitted that district could do a better job of teaching the students about Native American history. Now the district has not completely ignored the demands, due to a previous lawsuit, some of their clothing apparel and uniforms stopped having R**skin printed and instead use the word Skins.

When you have a group of people speaking up and saying that they are offended by this term, to us it is a racial slur and represents something horrible to them, people should listen to rather than try to silence them. While I myself am not offended by the term, I can understand why other people are and nobody should have to fight to not be offended.