HARTFORD, Conn. – Bad words are costing some Connecticut high schoolers $103 each.
Police officers assigned to Hartford Public and Bulkeley high schools have fined about two dozen students for cursing in a new program to curtail unruly behavior. The joint effort by school and police officials targets students who swear while defying teachers and administrators.
"We're sending a message to the parents and to the teachers," said Sandy Cruz-Serrano, senior adviser to Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry. "We are trying to bring back order to the schools."
Parents are required to pay the fines if the students cannot.
"Our heads are spinning with that," said Sam Saylor, president of the district Parent Teacher Organization. "The kids are really indecent with their swearing and they're swearing at teachers. This is their way of curtailing it — making the parents pay."
Keila Ayala, 17, a Hartford Public sophomore, said she was ticketed for shouting an expletive in an officer's face while handcuffed for taking a swing at him.
"It'll stop me from swearing," she said. "Well, it won't stop me from swearing, but I won't cuss at the teachers."
George Sugai, who teaches school discipline at UConn's Neag School of Education, is skeptical of the effort. "Research says that punishing kids doesn't teach them the right way to act," he said.
But Hartford Police Officer Roger Pearl said the program is working.
"Before, the kids were swearing all the time. It went from many incidents to almost nothing," he said. "It's quiet in the halls."