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Bill would censure teachers' foul speech

PHOENIX -- A teacher's role may be to expand a student's vocabulary, but one Arizona lawmaker wants to make sure that doesn't include four-letter words.

State Sen. Lori Klein has introduced a bill that would punish public school teachers if they use words that violate the obscenity and profanity guidelines set forth by the Federal Communications Commission.

A parent in Klein's district had complained about a high school teacher using foul language. The words were "totally inappropriate," and teachers that don't keep their language clean aren't setting a good example, she said. "You're there to be educated. You're not there to talk smack."

Critics say the bill is unnecessary and any discipline needed should be handled by schools and districts, not the legislature.

Her proposal may be constitutional, but "not necessarily wise," said James Weinstein, a constitutional law professor at Arizona State University.

Klein told the Senate committee yesterday that she didn't feel school boards were protecting "young, impressionable kids" from offensive language.

Floyd Brown, the parent who complained, knows better than most what kind of impression words can make. A longtime Republican strategist, he produced the infamous "Willie Horton" ad during the 1998 presidential campaign, which tied Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis to the release of a convicted murderer serving a life sentence.

Brown is the founding chairman of Citizens United, whose lawsuit led to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that ended limits on corporation and labor union spending for political purposes.

His daughter Olivia came home from high school last year upset that a teacher was using the F-word in class. Brown said school administrators didn't take his complaint seriously. He said he pulled his daughter, then a sophomore, out of the school and she's now being homeschooled. -- AP

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