Teens Shouldn't Be Allowed to Swear in Public

Eye Roll 14

no profanity signLast summer the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, voted to ban loud, public swearing by enforcing a 1968 law that would allow police to fine violators a $20 fine. Apparently, teenagers and other young people were deterring customers from businesses by being loud and obnoxious in public areas in front of stores.

This week it was reviewed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who said Tuesday that the original bylaw violates First Amendment free speech guarantees. She called for the town to take it off the books or amend it.

I’m an ardent defender of the Bill of Rights, so I can see where this is coming from, but I’m also a defender of public decency. I won’t try to pretend that my kids have never heard a curse word in our own home, but I can completely relate to avoiding areas filled with hooligans setting a bad example.

Yes, we have a right to say what we want. There’s an adage that says, “I may disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it.” The thing is that that only goes so far, and I don’t think it should apply in this case.

Freedom of speech doesn’t cover yelling FIRE in a crowed movie theater when there is none, and it shouldn’t protect public nuisances. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that teenagers shouting obscenities at each other in front of stores that might otherwise be frequented by paying customers are nuisances.

It’s sad that this is even a thing. Where are these children’s parents? Kids will be kids, and they’ll push the boundaries of propriety, sure, but come on people! Wouldn’t you be horrified to know your teenager was out shouting dirty words in the middle of town?

My kids have acted inappropriately in public before, and guess what? They were reprimanded for it. When I was a kid, I did what I thought I could get away with, and now my kids do the same. Why do these kids think they can get away with atrocious behavior like this?

Oh yeah. Because Martha Coakley says they can.


Image via grenade/Flickr

censorship, behavior


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tinyp... tinypossum

Let me guess....Martha Coakley is a democrat, right?? 

jhslove jhslove

I agree with your basic premise, but Martha Coakley is not saying that teens should be allowed to swear in public, only that they can't be legally prosecuted for doing so. She is not responsible for the fact that these kids apparently never learned how to behave in public--that responsibility lies with their parents. I would be willing to bet that the kids who are out swearing and being disruptive in front of stores, etc. learned their behavior from watching their parents either do the same thing or defend that behavior.

I wonder why the stores whose business is being disrupted by this behavior don't tell them to leave? People (and especially teens) will get away with whatever they're allowed to. Swearing, loud, obnoxious people should be dealt with the same way that I think families with misbehaving children should be--if they're ruining the experience of those around them, they should be told to leave. I think that would be good for businesses AND would send a message to people that no, you don't actually have the right to do and say whatever you want and act however you want in public with no consequence.

Lilyp... Lilypad523

I usually don't agree with Jenny but I'm definitely on board with this idea. This past summer I was out to dinner with my parents and my fiancé and the young guy at the booth behind us swore up and down the whole time. It really kind of ruined our meal. Plus there were small children at a table nearby. I'm sure those parents must have been livid. I know I would have been. My only question about this law is how well it can be enforced. How seriously will some people, especially teenagers, take a $20 ticket? What happens when the teenager keeps getting tickets and just keeps racking up the fines? I love the idea, don't misunderstand, I'm just trying to think it all through. Any ideas?

curio... curious1145

I'm surprised at you Jenny. I was thinking along the lines of what jhslove said, if they're disrupting a business with their loud,obnoxious behaivor,they should be asked to leave,but swearing or not. No,this law sounds ridiculous to me. Parents must hold their kids liable for their behaivor in public,but the government shouldn't step in about their language. I don't think it's even against the law for minors to smoke in public,only to purchase it. If it is,it's not enforced. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on this,and I'm sure someone will. This is just another ridiculous revenue raiser.

Pinkmani Pinkmani

Obviously, profanity bothers you, so why are you only after teenagers? Why not ban all profanity in public places, if it is so atrocious? 

It's the responsibility of the parents to teach their children that you are going to hear people say things that are wrong and rude, but you're not allowed to repeat them. 


EmmaF... EmmaFromEire

That town needs to get their collective knickers out of their twist. Words are only a big deal if you make a big deal out of them. Kids are gonna swear, and threatening them with some silly, petty pathetic little fine isn't going to stop them. And @tinypossum- i love your comment, she is indeed a democrat! and @pinkmani you're right on the opint there- why is it okay to only go after teenagers? Why is it okay to try and control their behaviour, but not an adult's?

Erin Kull

You can say "where are the parents?"  all you want but be real...kids will act one way when they are out with the friends regardless of how they were brought up.  Everyone knows that.  I am 33 and I will never curse in front of my parents but I will with my friends...when my son isnt' around of course.

nonmember avatar Sharon

How asinine is it that as a society we make up words we are not supposed to use. If we as collective didn't want to curse we wouldn't have invented curse words.

Vegeta Vegeta

Just stick a no loitering sign outside your business, you can't control what people say. Plus It's all hearsay anyway unless the police heard it come out of your mouth.

caili... caililovesdeja

They are WORDS. Seriously, WORDS! Have you never heard "sticks and stones"??

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