Federal punishment for a dirty mouth? Not so fast.

Staff Editorial

It happens, from time to time. A teacher says a profane word, those occasional immature students make a big deal of it, and the rest move on with the lesson. We’ve all heard these words before at one point in time or another, and the offense is quickly forgotten.

These sorts of moments are widespread, and authorities in at least one state are taking notice. The Arizona legislature recently proposed a new bill to ban teachers from cursing in front of students.

The bill would utilize Federal Communications Commission regulations to punish teachers who use profane language. The first offense can be a warning or a one-week suspension, the second a two week suspension, and the third leading to the firing of the teacher in question. A instructor’s new restrictions will be based off the terms that the FCC currently bars from airing on TV and radio. The f-word and s-word are among them, as you might expect; but there is also a significant gray area in what constitutes other, less-common curse words in context.

The question of what is and isn’t ‘profane’ will often find a different answer from any given source. Thus, such legislation forces teachers to base their own morality and judgement on that of the state- a move of reaching government that makes us more than a little uneasy. This new bill proposes a ‘three strikes – you’re out’ punishment for teachers who use offensive language. Instead teachers who use this sort of language should be privately addressed to by a superior for the effect the language has.  The school and school district should handle the matters of teachers using profane language in class.

Sure, we may not like to hear foul language- but this isn’t anything new to the average public school student. The FCC regulates certain speech because it does not want younger age groups to be exposed to inappropriate material, but for us, it as pervasive in the books we are assigned to read and the media that unifies a common teenage experience.

The idea that a teacher could lose their job and livelihood because a potential minority views a word used with no malicious intent as ‘offensive’ seems extreme. Teachers are human, and they can’t be expected to be perfect in every situation and circumstance. These zero-tolerance laws deny them the mercy we believe is due to all employees, state or otherwise. It’s also unfair in that the policy cannot be reversed. A teacher can tell a student over and over to watch their language, but under ‘free speech’, no true force can prohibit that student from speaking their mind. ‘Disruptions to learning’ aside, we hold free speech very dear; and, understandably, so do our instructors.

All we save ourselves from in supporting legislation such as this is the awkward sensation of trampling on delicate feelings. In reality, we should be taking measures to allow for the voicing of those feelings; for a truly open forum, where speech can be made and examined in equal turns.



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