No cursing in class: Arizona bill targets swearing -- by teachers

SwearingAn Arizona bill that would outlaw cursing by teachers in classrooms advanced through a Senate committee Wednesday, but it faces steep opposition from the teachers union and other groups that say the legislation is unnecessary and infringes on school districts' jurisdiction.

The measure, written by state Sen. Lori Klein, would prohibit teachers from using words that violate the Federal Communications Commission's standards on obscenity, indecency and profanity.    

The proposed law, which would apply to all K-12 public schools, passed the committee on a 5-2 vote along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor.

Klein, who represents Anthem, a suburb of Phoenix, has made national headlines in the past. 

Last year, she pointed her gun at an Arizona Republic reporter while demonstrating a laser scope. And when then-GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain was being dogged by allegations of sexual improprieties last fall, she defended him by saying that, in her experience, Cain had "never been anything but a gentleman -- and I am not an unattractive woman."

The bill says that if teachers are caught swearing, they would receive warnings for the first and second offenses. The third would mandate a one-week suspension without pay. A fourth, a two-week suspension. And the fifth would result in firing. 

Klein proposed the bill after longtime Republican strategist Floyd Brown, who lives in her district, complained to her of an incident involving his daughter.

Brown said he pulled his daughter, Olivia, from her high school after a teacher cursed at students. Olivia, who was a sophomore when the incident occurred last year, is now home-schooled.

"From my vantage point, it’s an important advance for creating a more civil environment to not feel threatened," Brown told The Times. "I’m surprised there is any opposition to it."

Brown said he complained to school officials about the matter, but got nowhere.

He says cursing by teachers in classrooms had increased dramatically, adding that the testimony during Wednesday's committee hearing supported his assertion.

Brown, who has been active in politics for decades, produced the controversial ad during the 1988 presidential campaign that attacked Democratic nominee Michael S. Dukakis for the furlough release of Willie Horton, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence. 

More recently, Brown was the founding chairman of Citizens United, the group whose lawsuit led to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations and labor unions to donate without restrictions to political action committees.

The Arizona School Boards Assn., which opposes the bill, said it hadn't heard reports of excessive teacher swearing from its school districts.

The association said school districts have policies in place that outline professional conduct, which involve discipline provisions that include suspensions or dismissals. 

The bill, spokeswoman Tracey Benson said, "infringes on local control, and districts ought to be trusted to run their own schools." 

Klein told the Senate committee Wednesday that she would prefer that the issue be left to school boards, but she didn't believe that they were protecting “young, impressionable kids” from offensive language, the Associated Press reported.

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-- Ricardo Lopez

Illustration: Joey Santos / Los Angeles Times

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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