Parents Curse Behavioral Lesson

September 25, 2008 6:07:26 PM PDT
A lesson in profanity at one Fresno middle school has created controversy and upset parents. Instead of math and English, the 12- and 13- and 14-year-olds at Tioga middle school learned about words that might make some adults blush.

During the first week of school, the kids got a lesson on words they shouldn't use, including terms for oral sex and prostitution. The teachers and kids were focused on behavioral expectations instead of the normal subjects, but some parents say the way the school taught kids not to swear was obscene.

The first week of school included a vocabulary lesson for Phoenix Hawkins and the words he learned won't help him on the SAT. He says his history teacher wrote out 15 dirty words for the whole class to see and then asked them not to use those words.

Phoenix says he only knew a few of the words, but he and some of the other kids tried to figure out the ones they didn't know. "After school, I asked my mom what some of the words were," he said. "And she said, 'where did you hear those words?'"

His mother says it was quite a shock to her ears and that he wasn't using "standard swear words." She called the words the most vulgar and disgusting words she's ever heard. "I couldn't believe what he was saying to me, said Erin Hawkins." "I felt so violated."

Phoenix says he's heard a lot more bad words at school since the cursing class, including that same day, when he says kids were using the 'C' word.

His parents are outraged. "I assure you, my child does not say those words," said his stepfather, Tim Baber. "And maybe I'm one of the lucky ones, but I'm avidly working to protect the innocence of my son."

They've complained to the school and found out the lesson was not just one teacher's idea, but part of a school-wide push to control bad behavior.

Tioga principal Ray Avila won't tell them all the words the teachers used. In fact, he denies that any teachers wrote the words on a board, although he admits they had some specific profanity in mind when they taught the lesson. "What I'm sharing with you is that there were words that teachers were aware of when they taught this lesson and we made sure the students understood the expectation," said Avila.

In a letter about the behavioral expectation week, Avila admitted the lesson on cussing and profanity was not appropriate.

Phoenix's parents are pushing for other parents to complain about the cursing class and to help them find out all the words their kids learned that day. They're going to the Fresno Unified school board meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

They also established a concerned parents' hotline. The number is (559) 229-6531.

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