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Can a Pledge to Cut the Cursing on Valentine's Day Squash Bullying?

Could reducing the number of students swearing cut down on bullying in schools? Anti-cursing activists think so.

Spend any amount of time in the average middle school hallway and your ears will sting from all the swearing. But students at Lott and Semmes Middle Schools in Mobile County, Alabama, are encouraging their classmates to drop the bad words on the one day of the year that love is supposed to rule: Valentine's Day.

A piece from today's New York Times details the multi-school no-cursing effort, and the $5,000 being spent to host California-based anti-cursing student activist McKay Hatch.

Of course, not everybody thinks swearing in school is a big deal. This might seem like just another instance of culture wars playing out in schools—except that there might be a correlation between bad language and bullying.

Nick Meinhardt, the eighth-grade president of Lott Middle's no-cursing club told the Times, "If you call someone a B-word, that’s bullying right there." Once it becomes OK to swear at someone, it makes sense that other more intense bullying follows suit.

Hatch's No-Cussing Club website cites stats from Elm Grove Middle School in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. The school reports that after two years of implementing a no-cursing club, there was a 64 percent decrease in profanity and a 90 percent drop in bullying incidents.

On the other hand, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't include eliminating cursing as a part of preventing youth violence. And, language and behavior expert Timothy Jay says that cursing bans don't work because they don't address the root problem—kids lack anger management skills, and schools and parents aren't teaching them.

What do you think? Are attempts to curb student cursing misguided, or is this Valentine's Day effort the perfect chance to bring a little civility back into our schools?

photo (cc) via Flickr user Sister72

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