Reprinted from Chumps on Parade (February 1998)
Recently a rule was drafted at a Milwaukee, WI high school that could have a tremendous amount of influence on school policy throughout the United States. Shorewood High School officials decided that the language of students was making the school look bad and disrupted the process of educating students. The rule is reprinted here:
??”6. It is expected that students will use appropriate language. A student will not use such highly offensive words such as fuck, motherfucker, bitch, ho, asshole, and cock sucker. This is not an inclusive list. Penalty-1st time=OSS1 (out of school suspension), 2nd and successive times police referral for disorderly conduct. A staff member will penalize other inappropriate language at his/her discretion.”??
Many of you probably don’t see this having any effect on schools outside of Milwaukee or Wisconsin but it could. The reason why is the recent push by conservative politicians to improve schools and institute “values” (Christian ideas on how we should act) in school. Several politicians across the United States have mentioned they would like to see this added in as many schools as possible. Michigan seems like an ideal place for a rule such as this. Michigan is already debating a law would require students to take an ethics/values class to improve morals. Our governor has stated his support for this proposed class, as well teaching the Bible. Looking at the conservative make up of our area, a rule regulating these words would likely have a lot of support. A recent survey suggested that 85% of American adults support the Milwaukee high school’s decision. In West Michigan the percentage of adults supporting a rule likely be much higher.
To comment on this whole mess, I would have to say that students should be allowed to swear as much as they want. It is an issue of freedom of speech, and if those are the words they want to use, let them-they can deal with the consequences. However, I do believe there are times when it is inappropriate. A student should never swear at a teacher or on an assignment, that is more of an issue of respect than freedom of speech. But if the kid wants to say, “fuck you” to someone he or she doesn’t like, let him or her. A school has no place to regulate the communication between students.