What the hell?

A second grade girl in Pittsburgh was suspended for a day for profanity. Specifically, she told a boy he’d go to “hell” for saying “I swear to God.”

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Comments

  1. It seems a little harsh. Couldn’t the teacher just have asked she not use that language or maybe even sent her to the office.

    Stupid people are making our world a living hell! Opps! I said it.

  2. The parents should keep her out for an extra day or two as an unexcused absence– maybe a family picnic or something– in order to affect the school’s per diem funding. And then sue for religious discrimination.

  3. Everyone knows that “hell” is profanity–she should have used the more politically-correct “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks”

    I like Bart’s idea of the family picnic, oops, I mean suspension.

  4. I got in trouble for cussing a couple times in school – never more than a verbal warning – so the punishment defintely seems a bit harsh to me. Nonetheless, as chett points out, “hell” has long been considered profanity (hence the word “heck”; same with “damn”/”darn”).

    While I don’t think the rule should be there in the first place (good to see the ACLU involved), it is currently there and she broke it. Good luck to the family, I guess.

  5. If “hell” is profanity, then so is “I swear to God.”

  6. “Hell” is profanity if you are saying “What the hell” and things of that nature. Warning someone that they will go to Hell if they don’t straighten up is not profanity. These people have no sense at all.

  7. John from OK says:

    She told the boy he’d go to hell, and that must have hurt his feelings. Now there’s the danger he might stuff them and grow up to become a domestic abuser.

    Oh what the hell, it was worth a try.

  8. jeff wright says:

    Just saw a poll in The Atlantic. 71% of the American people believe there is a hell. 004% of them believe that they themselves will end up there.

  9. Going to Hell says:

    As a non-Christian living in the Bible belt, my children have frequently been told that they were going to hell because they don’t believe what their classmates believe. In my opinion, this is religious bullying and merits being treated like other bullying behavior, not because “hell” is a profanity, but because it is behavior meant to intimidate and coerce.

  10. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘In my opinion, this is religious bullying and merits being treated like other bullying behavior’

    If you believe in Christian doctrine it’s ones moral duty to set an example and help your brothers and sisters to lead a Christian life. That’s no more bullying than any other unwanted advice.

  11. It’s probably the reference to a Christian concept of Hell that the school officials found profane.

  12. I know someone who was told repeatedly by “friends” in elementary school that she would go to Hell because she was Catholic (all the usual excuses, like idol worship, etc). Sure, she’s a well-balanced, stable person now – god forbid that someone couldn’t overcome some grade school taunting – but that doesn’t necessarily mean she should’ve had to put up with it, does it?

    Seriously, in a public school, it’s the government’s job to protect people from being offended – take a look at speech codes almost anywhere. If you want to get rid of this noxious infringement on freedom, you have to get rid of the government’s influence on schools…

    But my chilrden certainly won’t be raised Christian, and (if I were to put them in a public school – I don’t plan on doing so if at all possible) the first time one of them came home and told me that they were mocked because they weren’t “baptized” or “saved” or “didn’t believe in Jesus”, you can quite safely bet that the school would get a call no different than if someone called my kid “retarded” or “gay.”

  13. Basically, there’s no way in heck I would let my kids be made fun of for being non-Christian in an environment where they’re by no means allowed to make fun of other kids for being [insert extraneous reason to mock someone here].

  14. Jack Tanner says:

    So if you’re not protected from hearing any opinion other than you’re own you’re being mocked and taunted? That sounds pretty intolerant to me. Oh you mean only if they express Christian beliefs?

  15. Steve LaBonne says:

    Nick, as a felow non-religious person I hope that by the time you do have kids you’ll realize that what they really need to do in response to such remarks is simply to grow a thicker skin. I don’t exempt myself or my kid from my firm belief that nobody has a right never to be offended. Yes, it’s too bad the schools have caved in to the sensitivity scam on other topics, but that doesn’t mean I have to add to the problem.

  16. Jack, if your little darling came home and told you that, say, some little Muslim child had called her a cursed infidel, would you chalk this up to a healthy exchange of opinions?

  17. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘Jack, if your little darling came home and told you that, say, some little Muslim child had called her a cursed infidel, would you chalk this up to a healthy exchange of opinions?’

    Pretty much. Either you’re going to tolerate other beliefs or not. I’d probably express that we don’t believe that and feel free to relate that we don’t in any way you see fit, but I wouldn’t call the principals office and whine about someone expressing a different opinion than mine. If I did that I’d be doing it all day long.

  18. Half way to Hell says:

    Tolerating other’s beliefs is very different from putting up with condemnation. If it is a Christian’s duty to spread their belief (and why then did Christ tell people to pray in private?) that is not the same as telling another child that they will go to hell. To begin with, I believe that God is supposed to be the one who makes that decision. I stand by my belief that it is religious bullying. Speaking of one’s own beliefs does not require an attempt to intimidate or coerce others into adopting those ideas as their own.

  19. Bill Leonard says:

    Seems to me the point is not religious tolerance or lack thereof. The point is suspension of a 7-year-old by some bureaucrat whose continued employment, based on this action, ought to be evaluated.

  20. Jack Tanner says:

    Where did anyone try to coerce anyone to do anything? How is expressing their personal belief a condemnation of anything? Because it’s different than yours? Last I heard it’s up to you whether you agree with them or not.

  21. I don’t see this story as having anything to do with religion. It’s actually a somewhat heartening story about a school attempting to enforce a miniminal level of civility – and teaching children not to swear in school is just fine by me. Suspending kids for bringing Tylenol to school – now that’s madness.

  22. There is no evidence that the insulted child was not Christian. We do not–and will not–know all of the factors involved. The child who was told that he would go to Hell could have been from a very religious family, and could have been terrified. At any level, it is not civil to tell your neighbor that they are going to Hell, _particularly_ if you mean it.

    Rather than using the incident to discuss civility to others and restraint in expression, the father excused his daughter’s behavior with reference to current television entertainment, and called in the lawyers. Wonderful.

    In addition, who called the media? The family? The lawyer?

  23. Nick Blesch says:

    Nick, as a felow non-religious person I hope that by the time you do have kids you’ll realize that what they really need to do in response to such remarks is simply to grow a thicker skin. I don’t exempt myself or my kid from my firm belief that nobody has a right never to be offended. Yes, it’s too bad the schools have caved in to the sensitivity scam on other topics, but that doesn’t mean I have to add to the problem.

    I agree with you, Steve – don’t think that I don’t. I put up with a lot worse than being told to go to hell in school, and I am a much better person for it.

    What I am attempting to say is that the public schools have taken it upon themselves to protect people from statements that are racist, sexist, sexaul, racial, religious, offensive to people who are mentally or physically disabled, tall, short, thin, fat, smart, dumb, black, while, brown, yellow, red, athletic, lazy, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum – and for them not to protect someone who is irreligous (the boy) from being taunted by someone who is (the girl), then they are failing to protect all parties equally, and that the only word for such treatment is discrimination.

    I think that school should just butt out, to be honest, and let kids grow that thick skin. I’m not a fan of protecting people’s delicate sensibilities. But since the school must protect either all or none – protecting some is simply not an option (if we assume free speech, which is naturally a bold assumption in the world of today).

  24. Richard Brandshaft says:

    As profanity, a child saying “hell” only rated pro forma reproof from an adult 50 years ago.

    As literal truth: If God would send a still born baby to hell because his parents did not pay the church for the proper rituals, certainly He would send a second grader to hell for using His Name too casually. A child is being punished for giving a needed warning.

  25. It’s funny, it’s okay to say the *f* word as long as it’s not referring to a specific act; for some reason, that’s not profane.

    But, using the *h* word to refer to a specific place, *is* profane?

    The child, at 7 years old, probably didn’t intend “religious condemnation”. She was guilty of being too outspoken and lacking in tact but, for pity’s sake, she’s **7** years old!!!! That’s what they do.

  26. Interested visitor says:

    Jack –

    It would entirely depend on context. If someone walks up to a second grader – even if it is another second-grader – and deliberately initiates the conversation that ends up with “well, you’re going to hell then”, it’s quite a bit different from either

    a) A guy standing on a street corner shouting to all and sundry, “You will go to hell if you don’t repent!” or

    b) A Christian giving a correct statement of belief when asked by a non-Christian what will happen at his death.

    Particularly if it’s done in front of the whole class, it can be quite offensive.

    I’m well beyond elementary school, but (living in the Bible Belt) I wholeheartedly conceal my atheism from anyone who doesn’t specifically ask (and I beat around the bush quite a bit beforehand). Why? I have been harangued for untold hours for the simple sin of saying that I don’t believe in God. I can’t imagine the kind of day-in and day-out harassment this kid may end up dealing with. Kids do need tough skins, but parents should at least provide some kind of guidance about when it is or is not appropriate to tell people they’re going to hell.

  27. Interested visitor says:

    Er, forgot to mention: I wouldn’t suspend the kid. That would be silly. Just call mom and tell her what happened.

  28. John from OK says:

    A 7 year old boy probably said, “I swear to God my daddy can beat up your daddy!” Then a 7 year old girl might of said, “Oooooh, you’re going to go to hell for saying that!” And then the 7 year old girl GOT SUSPENDED FOR A DAY!

  29. Jack Tanner says:

    IV –

    With all due respect – you’re basically saying what other people are saying – that you want to be protected from anything that you don’t want to hear. Maybe you’re right that it could be offensive but obviously no one has the right to not be offended. I’m not saying that it isn’t offensive or trying to impose my beliefs on whether it’s right or wrong but what I’m trying to point out is the school is trying to dictate that someone can’t express their personal beliefs and I would certainly infer from the situation it’s because they don’t agree with them. I live in an area that’s probably about as far to the opposite end of the cultural belief spectrum as where you are and believe me there are a lot of things I take offense at. But if one of my kids comes home and says some child said something we don’t agree with should the other kid be suspended from school for some bogus reason?

  30. Interested visitor says:

    No, I don’t care about being protected from these things. It doesn’t “hurt” me to be told I’m going to hell – it just wastes inordinate amounts of my time (because EVERYONE wants to talk, ad nauseam, about how I ended up atheist and blah blah blah) and results in barrages of Jack Chick-esque tracts in my mailbox.

    My argument is that schools ought to enforce a bit of civility. If you go up to someone and ask their opinion, you have no right to be hurt if you don’t like it. OTOH, if you were put up in front of the class and asked about your religious beliefs and then told by a teacher that you were going to hell, that’s clearly beyond any sort of pale. Posting someone for ridicule is bad behavior and should be treated as such. As you may have missed – I didn’t think the suspension was justified.

  31. (because EVERYONE wants to talk, ad nauseam, about how I ended up atheist and blah blah blah)

    Interesting. You say this happens to you and I’m willing to take your word for it. But I’ve worked around avowed atheists for years and I’ve never observed them being treated this way, ever, at all. If anything, there’s been sneering and eyerolling on their part when anyone mentions church, or whatever. I have to wonder what’s different about your circumstances.

  32. As a Christian seminarian (Oh no! He’s Christian!), striclty speaking, the girl wasn’t completely theologically sound, as everybody goes to hell no matter what. As for the reaction to this girl? Eh, in the words of the not so immortal former Beatle, live and let die.

    I wonder though where are all the apologists would’ve been had they known about all the kids who mocked me in school for having a deep religious faith. Whatever though, their loss and not mine.

  33. I think the adults who blew this out of proportion should be handed a two week suspension without pay for exposing the taxpayers to a lawsuit. Have a chat with the kiddies and move on with your lives….

  34. RavenPanther says:

    i am not christian(fortunately) i am wiccan(score!!!) and i am in school. i am not saying we should protect ourselves from things we dont want to hear but I wouldnt like it if some one told me I am going to Hell because I dont believe in Jesus Christ. We need to let everyone believe what they want to, but still have restrictions on remarks made against someone who is of another religion or has none at all