Vol. 11, No. 2,553 - The American Reporter - January 5, 2005

Make My Day

by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
Syracuse, Indiana

SYRACUSE, Ind. -- I was in the first grade when I learned my very first cuss word. Oh sure, I knew all the 6-year-old classics, like "poopyhead," "butt," and "weiner." But now I was well on my way to being a grown-up, because I knew the "S-word."

One of my friends taught it to me, and we would sit in his yard, and use it in a sentence - mostly incorrectly - and nearly wet ourselves with laughter.

I even used it in school once. Nobody was around, so I quietly whispered it into my pencil box in my desk, so no one could hear me.

Things changed for me that day. I was a rebel. A 6-year-old, glasses-wearing, mom-still-picked-out-my-clothes rebel. Pretty soon, I moved on to whispering it in the boys' bathroom, whispering it into a school book, or whispering it as I walked home after school.

Of course, that was nothing compared to the time I said the F-word that same year.

It was completely innocent, and I didn't even know it was a bad word. Some friends and I were rhyming words by running through the alphabet. Someone said "duck," and I had the misfortune to be the second person down the line. So when I said the new word, everyone else gasped in shock, and someone ran to the teacher, blood spewing from their ears.

When my teacher realized I had no idea what I had just said, that was the end of that. Or so she thought. As the saying goes, you can't unring a bell. When I saw that my word choice created such an uproar, I added it to my whispering repertoire.

Of course, this is nothing compared to Brandy McKenith's recent cussing experience. She's a 7-year-old second grader from Pittsburgh who said the word "hell" to a boy and was suspended for a day.

According to a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the classmate said, "I swear to God" to her. So Brandy told him "You're going to go to hell for swearing to God."

And with the same tolerance and sense of justice that made the Spanish Inquisition a smashing success, Brandy was sent home for a one-day suspension.

A school system spokeswoman told the newspaper, profanity is prohibited by the student code of conduct, but the definition of profanity is not provided.

This presents a problem because "hell" is not a dirty word to everyone. It can be a place, a swear word, or even an adjective. But I think in this case, Brandy was referring to the place, which means it's not actually a dirty word - no more than Hell, Michigan or Hell Hole, Utah.

Needless to say, the suspension was a surprise to everyone, especially Brandy and her father.

"Why would I get suspended for something stupid?" she wondered.

Why indeed. It has something to do with the fact that Zero Tolerance policies themselves are stupid.

Brandy's father, Wayne McKenith, is understandably upset. He told the Tribune-Review: "Kids are bringing guns and knives to school. . . They've got dope. And we're worried about 'hell?'"

No, apparently we're also worried about the use of the word "gay." At least they are down in Lafayette, Louisiana.

According to Associated Press Story from December 2003, 7-year-old Marcus McLaurin was punished because he said his mother is gay. At least that's what it says on the discipline form he brought home that November.

Apparently, a classmate asked Marcus what the word meant, so he explained it was when"a girl likes a girl." A teacher overheard the remark, and told him "gay" was a bad word. The next week, he was required to write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again" numerous times.

However, Lafayette schools superintendent James Easton denied that Marcus was disciplined for using the word "gay." He said in a written statement that it was for "ordinary student disturbances."

That's odd, because according to the original disciplinary form filled out by Marcus' teacher - which can be downloaded at CBSnews.com - it was all about the "gay" thing. She wrote "(t)his kind of discussion is not acceptable in my room. I feel that parents should explain things of this nature to their own children in their own way."

And she's right. Teachers have the responsibility to allow or prohibit certain kinds of discussions in their classroom. However, punishing a 7-year-old for explaining what "gay" means is overly harsh, especially since he's talking about his own family.

Personally, I think the whole thing is a load of S-word.

Copyright 2005 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.