East Bay Newspapers says school officials at a high school in Rhode Island have rejected a student's personalized senior picture because he is dressed as a knight and carrying a broadsword.

Patrick Agin of Portsmouth High School participates with his family in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that re-enacts medieval European traditions. "To reflect his passion about re-enactment and his participation with the SCA, Patrick chose to sit for his senior picture in costume, specifically, chain mail and a sword," said his mother.

But principal Robert Littlefield said Agin must crop the sword from the picture, get a new one or go without having his picture in the yearbook altogether. The reason? The picture violates the school's zero-tolerance policy on weapons. Littlefield says students shouldn't show up in the yearbook bearing any sort of arms, even 800-year-old old ones.

Racism, Texas-style

Managers of the airport in Austin, Texas have backed away from a policy that would have required employees there to be able to speak English fluently or face losing their jobs after critics claimed such a requirement would be racist, according the Austin American Statesman.

The city's director of aviation, Jim Smith, said in a memo that the ability to read, write and speak English is essential to safety, security and customer service at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The city offered free, on-the-job English language training program to employees who need to improve their language skills and said those who couldn't speak English after 48 weeks of training would be let go.

But the requirement came under fire from unions and Austin city councilman Mike Martinez, who said it "could be viewed as potentially racist."

The language courses will now be voluntary.

Naughty Nurses

An Arizona restaurant is catching flak from local and national health care professionals because its waitresses parade around in skimpy nurses outfits, reports the Associated Press.

A national nursing group says the uniforms at the Heart Attack Grill (home of the Quadruple Bypass Burger and the Flatliner Fries) are an insult to their profession and demeaning to the women who wear them. Several have complained to the Arizona Attorney General's office.

"Nurses are the most sexually fantasized-about profession," said Sandy Summers, executive director of the Center for Nursing Advocacy, based in Baltimore. "We're asking people, if they're going to have these fantasies, please don't make it so public. Move these sexual fantasies to other professions."

The restaurant's owner, Jon Basso, has shrugged off the complaints. All the complaints are doing is ensuring "that there's going to be a gajillion of these all over the country."

Painful Truths

Reuters reports that Mayan Indian activists in Guatemala are irritated with Mel Gibson's latest snuff film, 'Apocalypto,' because they say it presents their ancient civilization in an unflattering manner.

Gibson's film, made with Mayan actors in the jungles of the southern Yucatan, depicts the final days of the Mayan civilization, when warrior-kings and priests waged nearly constant war with their neighbors in an effort to capture prisoners for slaves or human sacrifice. Entire cities were destroyed by the wars, and whole forests cut down to build the temples.

Indian leaders in Guatemala said scenes of scary-looking Mayans with bone piercings and scarred faces hurling spears and sacrificing humans promote stereotypes about their culture.

Brokeback-phobia

The Burlington Free Press says a fraternity at the University of Vermont has been suspended following allegations that it gave alcohol to underage pledges and hosted a homophobic, Brokeback Mountain-themed party.

Phi Gamma Delta is alleged to have held a party in March at which pledges were made to wear cowboy outfits and taunted with homophobic language. As a result, the fraternity has been suspended for a year and will not be allowed to return to normal campus activity until all its members endure sensitivity training.

An adviser for the fraternity, Joseph Thibault, said the school is overreacting.

"This selective omission, and others like it, framed the fraternity members' actions as offensive, when in fact no one took them that way," he said. "While some of the fraternity members may be guilty of exercising poor taste, their actions did not rise to the level of committing a hate crime or engaging in hazing."

Mailbag:

Robert D. in Texas writes:

At the risk of offending an awful lot of people: We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. Get over it. Censorship is wrong. I have to tolerate some objectionable statements to be sure that I have the right to those statements with which I agree.

Geoff M. in Seattle writes:

When I grew up, book burning and banning were viewed with abhorance and as examples of society under a totalitarian regime. It appears that today's "offended" have assumed the role of the old despots. Perhaps this is occurring because of their ignorance of history since they have failed to read that which they find difficult to view.

Melissa P. in Fort Worth writes:

It is a shame that those who play the race card and cry "prey on the economically disadvantaged" don't understand we have an all volunteer army and that personal choices are made by individuals who join the military.

William S. in Washington writes:

This is America and people are supposed to be able to have their own opinion. I guess in today's society, if you're not a minority or an illegal alien, you can't have an opinion because you're automatically a racist if you open you're mouth. You know, I saw it before and it still applies as far as I'm concerned: "I have the right 'NOT' to be tolerant of others because they are different, weird, or tick me off."

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