Please do something better with your time.
Senate Bill 1467, which would limit teacher speech and conduct to what complies with Federal Communications Commission regulations fails to foster an educational climate that respects both teachers and students.
I wholeheartedly agree that teachers should never use profane language directed toward students or even casually in the classroom. However, I’ve only rarely seen it happen — and have never known it to happen unaddressed by school or district administration. Certainly, I have not been in every school in the state, but I’ve observed several and maintained professional relationships with teachers in dozens more — and it is quite difficult for me to believe this is a systemic and unmanageable problem sufficient to merit a new law.
Basically, we are doing just fine policing ourselves on this front. We do not need your help, and you are not actually helping.
However, as an English teacher, this bill would prohibit me from discussing a myriad of works of literature in the classroom: Catcher in the Rye (sort of famous for its profanity), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Bluest Eye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Bless Me, Ultima. All of them have been board-approved in various schools where I’ve taught. All of them contain the power and eloquence to speak to the teens in my community. All of them would require me to violate FCC regulations in order to discuss authentically.
This bill limits my ability both to challenge my students to excellent thinking and to validate their lived existence already. To this bill, then, I say — fornicate that feces.
Additionally, as a disciplinarian, this bill would limit my ability to accurately retell student speech for documentation purposes. For example, if a student tells me, “This is bullshit,” in response to being expected to, like, read a book — it helps when I can convey the student’s reaction to parents or administrators using the student’s exact words. (Note: I am fortunate in that “this is bullshit” is the worst student comment I’ve heard expressed in person. There are other teachers who may need to report more directly harassing comments or behavior.) If parents, administrators, and (occasionally) law enforcement explicitly request my providing them the student’s exact words where available — a law that might ban me from providing the student’s exact words hurts rather than helps.
I realize there’s this hope that this law will magically stop all student profanity everywhere, but really — Are we now setting public policy on the expectation that all teenagers will follow the rules? Really? REALLY?
Finally, there’s the problem that as written, this bill limits my speech not only in my classroom, at school, or during contract hours — but everywhere. While that may or may not be the purpose of the law, y’all have not exactly earned the right to claim good intentions. For anything. Precocious radio talk show hosts have already said it better than I could, but — fuck. At some future moment of my life, I will want to have sex. I will need to pee.
And sooner or later, I am going to have to take a shit.
I am entitled to do all those things and — while on my time, in my space — to express them in my own fucking terms.