School Superintendent Offended By Words 'Ugly' & 'Fat' Needs to Grow Up

ugly wordsDo you remember the first time you heard the word "ugly"? How about "fat"? Not someone calling you that either, folks, just heard the word. Because a superintendent in New Hampshire is convinced that middle school kids in her district likely never heard either before teachers introduced a proactive anti-bullying campaign. She says she's "offended" that teachers used those words when teaching their kids the sorts of things they shouldn't say to their peers.

And here I'm just offended that a woman has risen to the role of superintendent without ever spending time on a bus in a school district. Or walked on a playground. Or actually spent time ... with a child?


Because if she had, she'd know kids say these words ... and much worse, well before they hit middle school. The "mean girls," I've found, start in pre-school these days, and the things you learn on the bus are the stuff of legends. I joke that I learned about sex the old-fashioned way -- from other kids on my bus ride. I'm not really joking.

And so the argument from Franklin Superintendent Maureen Ward is, to use a word she probably thinks her kids don't know, stupid.

And for the record, I'm not calling HER stupid. Just like the educators teaching kids about bullying were not calling their kids either ugly or fat or even more harsh words that were apparently voiced inside a classroom. But Maureen Ward says that it was inappropriate to use hateful words to explain what kids shouldn't say.

What she forgets -- or somehow doesn't know -- is that kids hear those words every day, that they become immune to them, and someone needs to wake them up. Words have power. I need to point no further than the movements to end the use of both the word "retard" and "gay" as insults in schools. Often kids use them flippantly, not equating them with the child with Down syndrome or the homosexual kid. They might not MEAN to be mean. And yet, they are, obviously. And continuing to use such words is what's truly offensive.

Like the parents who want to pretend their little precious could NEVER be the bully, Maureen Ward may want to pretend that the world is pretty and light, and middle schoolers don't use offensive language. But I live in the real world, the grown-up world. I want my child's class to be taught that just because it's been said on the playground, it's not appropriate to say.

Pussyfooting around bullying isn't going to end the epidemic. Acting like the adults and putting our collective feet down, on the other hand, can make a real difference.

Do you think the teachers were wrong here? Do your kids hear the sort of words you don't want them to say?


Image via greeblie/Flickr

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