When I first read the headline online, the article “Dallas Teen Fined $637 for Foul Mouth” seemed to be required reading for me. Unfortunately, after finishing the piece, I was utterly confused. While the original $340 fine was substantially increased when the student failed to appear for a hearing, it seems that the teen-ager, teacher, principal and school resource officer (whatever that is) all accepted the basic premise of levying a fine as punishment for using an expletive in the classroom.
The article was quite frustrating. If the reported facts are accurate, I was left with numerous unanswered questions. Is this public school such a bastion of etiquette that this utterance was so unusual? In that case, the cursing is of much less interest than how the school runs a modern educational establishment with a 1920’s code of conduct. On the other hand, if the profanity-laced language heard in high schools around the country is routinely voiced and fined in this school, then this center of learning seems to hold the answer to the country’s education budget crisis. The report mentions the student acknowledging her crime and getting a job to pay the fine. No parents protesting, no First-Amendment lawyers involved; just fuller school coffers.
I also didn’t understand a line in the article stating that the fine was levied partially because a teacher was offended by the language. If a different teacher sees profanity as a healthy expression of self, is cursing in her class o.k.? And if one teacher finds cilantro offensive, how much does a student bringing it for lunch get fined? Does this school run on an offender/offended basis?
When I looked up the North Mesquite school on Wikipedia, I found this information, “All students in North Mesquite are required to dress according to a standardized dress code (similar to a prison uniform) as of 2005.” Do the teens walk around in orange jumpsuits? All in all, things just seem to be ‘curiouser and curiouser.’
I have no idea what the actual story is. As my children will attest, I have an extremely low tolerance for profanity. I produced an audio CD that helps teens and adults recognize the harm they do to their romantic and financial lives when using foul language. It even provides guidance for breaking the habit. But, while I detest profanity personally as well as believing that it negatively affects a society’s quality of life, I also have a low tolerance for reporters who write articles that leave one confused. If any of you know more about this story, I’d love to hear from you.