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 Student punished b/c of sexual slur 
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An interesting article...Should this student have been punished?

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - When a few classmates razzed Rebekah Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, "Do you have 10 moms?" she shot back: "That's so gay."
Those three words landed the high school freshman in the principal's office and resulted in a lawsuit that raises this question: When do playground insults used every day all over America cross the line into hate speech that must be stamped out?
After Rice got a warning and a notation in her file, her parents sued, claiming officials at Santa Rosa's Maria Carillo High violated their daughter's First Amendment rights when they disciplined her for uttering a phrase "which enjoys widespread currency in youth culture," according to court documents.
Testifying last week about the 2002 incident, Rice, now 18, said that when she uttered those words, she was not referring to anyone's sexual orientation. She said the phrase meant: "That's so stupid, that's so silly, that's so dumb."
But school officials say they took a strict stand against the putdown after two boys were paid to beat up a gay student the year before.
"The district has a statutory duty to protect gay students from harassment," the district's lawyers argued in a legal brief. "In furtherance of this goal, prohibition of the phrase 'That's so gay' ... was a reasonable regulation."
Superior Court Judge Elaine Rushing plans to issue a ruling in the non-jury trial after final written arguments are submitted in April. Her gag order prevents the two sides from discussing the case.

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Katie Stephens


Tue Apr 03, 2007 8:15 pm
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There is not many children that dont make similar comments all of the time in school. We just talked about how we give words meanings other than their dictionary definitions. Why is this any different? To this girl the word probably meant stupid or silly in the context it was used. It makes more sense to replace the word "gay" in her comment with the word silly or stupid as opposed to homosexual. I think the fact that this is now a court case is a little extreme.

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Adam Moore


Wed Apr 04, 2007 9:34 am
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I really don't see any difference in Rice's comment "that's so gay" and the question "do you have ten moms?" First of all, both comments, if you want to look at them that way, can be in negative reference to a person's identity. Making a comment like that about a person's religious orientation is no better than making a comment about a person's sexual orientation. I think if the administration at that school is going to make the word "gay" off limits (regardless of the context of which it is used) then they should make religious remarks off limits as well. In the conversation it seemed to me that the other children were making fun of Rice for being what she was - I think we can all agree that what she said in response was not directed to the children as meaning they are homosexual. My point is, how can they punish one crime and not the other?


Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:52 am
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It sounds like that community/school was still a little heated about the homosexual violence that had taken place recently, which could have been a huge reason that this girl was lashed out at. I am not sure, however, if her rights are protected under the freedom of speech clause either. Considering that homosexuality is not a legal basis for discrimination, slurs like this and other discrimination cannot legally be punished.

For now, schools, principals, and teachers have to do their best to enforce their own language policy. This involves all three of those sections being constant. It happens all too often that the phrase "that's gay" is slung around, but if a teacher hears the "n" word in class, they do nothing. It may be one of the hardest jobs of a teacher to assure that bad language is kept out of the classroom. If teachers remain constant and also discuss with students why their harsh words can hurt or cause trouble, then perhaps their will be a reduction. But, ignoring those words and/or lashing out at certain students is not the way to go.

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Mary M


Wed Apr 04, 2007 2:05 pm
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I agree that it is obvious she did not mean that the kids bullying her were homosexual. I think that teachers should have rules about these words that are strict in their classroom. If the kids know from day one that they cannot say "gay" or "faggot" even in a kidding way with out getting punished, then they will be more conscious of their language. This case is extreme, and I don't know what the teacher's rules are, but the discipline should have been in the classroom, not so dramatic.

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Lauren Cagle


Wed Apr 04, 2007 4:51 pm
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I believe both students should be punished in some way. At least, they
should be informed about how their behaviors and actions can hurt
others. I agree that both comments are equally humiliating and unjust
and both should meet with some sort of consequence. Saying ‘that’s so
gay,’ but referring to someone stupid or silly is not okay. That
associates homosexuality with stupidity and silliness. It gives
homosexuality a negative connotation and associates it with unrelated
descriptions. I do believe the Mormon girl may be getting a punishment that too severe. They may be harshly punishing her in order to make a point to everyone else (effective but not really fair). I can’t believe how the parents justified their daughters actions, validating her choice of words as one "which enjoys widespread currency in youth culture." That doesn’t mean its okay to say. Just because a lot of people say it does not mean it is right or okay. Its crazy to think that someone, especially parents, would validate these words by using such a trivial and foolish explanation.


Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:33 pm
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The parents were just upset that it was "their" child that was being punished for saying this phrase when this type of language IS used widely across america. I myself have made this same comment countless times without actually referring to any form of homosexuallity. The bottom line is, if the girl is going to be punished then the bullies need to be punished as well. You can't just provoke someone and then tell on them just to get them in trouble. Both parties should be punished equally whether it be in the prinicpal's office or in the classroom.

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Dustin Hull


Wed Apr 18, 2007 11:31 am
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