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State Lawmakers Want to Punish Bad Language in the Classroom

Teachers who use salty language could end up getting suspended or even fired. But  it's not exactly clear what words will get an instructor in trouble.

The proposal approved by the Senate Committee on Government Reform would impose penalties on those who engage in speech or conduct that would violate the standards the Federal Communications Commission has adopted for obscenity, indecency and profanity for television and radio broadcasts. A first offense or second offense draws just a warning; three or more incidents mandate loss of the job. That brought questions because, despite a 1972 George Carlin comedy routine about the seven words you can never say on TV, the FCC does not have such a list. That led Senator Steve Gallardo to question whether the legislation should include a specific list of no-no words, given the penalties involved.

"Unless you come up with some specific words of what can and cannot be said in a classroom," said Gallardo, "you're putting these teachers in a sticky situation."

Senator Lori Klein who is pushing the plan conceded that referring to the FCC standards is probably of little help. She promised to recraft the measure when it now goes to the full Senate. But Klein could provide no clear definition of where the line would be drawn between acceptable and unacceptable.

"I think it's fairly apparent that profanity is profanity," she said. "It's kind of like pornography. You know when you see it. And the same with profanity."