Teen pays $637 fine for cursing in class

A suburban Dallas teenager was fined $637 for cursing in class and failing to show up for a hearing.

Court records show that teacher Michelle Lene heard Victoria Mullins say “you trying to start (expletive)” loudly in class one day last October. She was sent to the principal’s office and given lunch detention. The next day, the school resource officer presented the North Mesquite High School student a ticket.

The teacher complained Mullins’ language was a breach of the peace.

Mullins acknowledges she was wrong, but said a classmate was getting on her nerves.

The girl got a waitressing job to pay the fine.

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  1. Foobarista says:

    What’s a “resource officer”?

  2. In my high school school resource officers were city police assigned to the school. I’m not sure who paid their salaries.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    This is ridiculous.

  4. @Michael E. Lopez
    What’s ridiculous about it? The fact that someone is trying to teach a young person that they can’t go around cussing in a public setting?

    Do you think she will think twice before doing this again? If the answer is yes, then it worked.

  5. Amy in Texas says:

    The resource officer is part of the police force assigned to a public school. Technically you can have a student cited for cursing, but with all the cursing everywhere it’s rarely done in my school.

  6. Wow… standards….

    I often wonder what it would be like to work in a place like that…

  7. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Dear Mr. W,

    Perhaps I should chop of your leg the next time you go 1 mph over the speed limit. I think we can assure that this would cause you to “think twice” before speeding.

    What? That’s too draconian a penalty for such a slight offense?

    Apparently *SWEARING IS A CRIME* now. I realize that students have reduced civil rights as minors and as being in the custody of schools and all. But really… a SIX HUNDRED DOLLAR FINE for cursing?

    Now, you can say all you want about how it’s not the swearing but rather the disruption. But the fact is that they aren’t citing students who merely speak out of turn, I’ll wager. That makes this speech-discriminating enforcement, which really raises a First Amendment issue.

    Even if some court decides it’s legal, it’s still ridiculous.

  8. Michael,

    Contributing to the destruction of education SHOULD be a crime –or at least an offense with a stiff penalty. What schools need and lack is stiff penalties. Were such fines commonplace, schools would suddenly become much more effective.

  9. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I feel like I just woke up in a Twilight Zone episode, or a Kafka story. Have you all lost your collective minds?

    Hit the damn student with a ruler if you have to. Send her to detention. Saturday school. After-school trash pick up. Whatever. But court-enforced criminal penalties are not the way to bring order and community to a school. Our schools are enough like prisons to start with — oh yeah, and now we have “lock downs”, too. Things are just getting better and better.

    And Lightly Seasoned… I don’t understand what you mean by Slippery Slope arguments. Slippery Slope arguments, as I’m sure you know, are different than analogies. No one is suggesting that anyone’s legs will end up cut off, which would have to be the conclusion of a slippery slope argument.

    I made two arguments: one was an argument by analogy, which I admit is a fairly weak sort of rhetorical argument, but has the benefit of signaling one’s point in a clear, vivid fashion even if its persuasive value isn’t very high.

    The second argument is a straight-up legal argument: enforcing criminal penalties (infraction-level, to be sure, but criminal penalties nonetheless) for speech on a speech-content-selective basis is prima facie unconstitutional.

    Nowhere did I even wave my hands at a slippery slope argument.

  10. I’d have to follow the link through, but I suspect most of the fine is contempt for not showing up for her hearing. The scenario sounds to me like a fight starting, not just garden variety cursing.

    But, fined for cursing makes a much better headline.

    Michael, you usually do better than slippery slope arguments.

  11. I followed the link, $340 of the fine was for cursing and the rest for failure to appear.

    I agree with Lightly Seasoned, the teacher probably stopped a fight in the making.

  12. Michael E. Lopez says:

    And even if I did… some slippery slope arguments are good arguments, you know.

    WHOAH! That’s weird. My comment in response to Lightly actually ended up above hers. Strange.

  13. Michael,

    Frustrated school employees fantasize about criminal penalties because the penalties they’re allowed to dispense are wimpy and ineffectual. I agree that it’s sad that it’s come to this point, but currently WE get punished for punishing the kids. So many bad behaviors get tolerated and education suffers.

  14. Michael: I read it as “if we fine students for cursing now, next thing we’ll do is cut people’s legs off for speeding” — classic slippery slope. I guess there’s an analogy — but that’s a whole ‘nother fallacy. I actually think slippery slope arguments are almost never very good because they’re ultimately just scare tactics — but ymmv.

    You’ll be pleased to note that the one class disruption I dealt with today had no legal consequences (even though the student took my pencil, broke it in several pieces, and whipped it into the face of autistic student). At least I spent less than five minutes of instructional time kicking his fanny to the office.

  15. It’s apparent that Michael isn’t in the classroom at all. More teachers would probably love to see things like this. Instead we have counselors that hand out candy to students when they are sent there because of discipline reasons.

    A teacher caught two kids cheating on a test and when he confronted them, the students admitted they had cheated on every test since November. When he told their counselor the counselor simply said “when you get pulled over for speeding you only get one ticket”. Comparing speeding to admitting you cheated on every test for 3 months are two totally separate things, but this is what we face day in and day out. Administrators who are afraid to discipline students out of fear of a parent complaint.

  16. Michael is right; the rest of you who think this is an appropriate court action are, to put it mildly, idiots.

  17. I think most people are in favor of punishing students for wrong doings, Mr. W. I don’t think Michael is arguing that she should get candy instead of a punishment. She should be punished, but the punishment should fit the crime.

  18. @ Mr. W and others who think such a punishment is a good thing.

    So, if you cursed in school and got in trouble, you would have no problem paying Three Hundred and Forty Dollars as punishment?

    Come now, the only offense something like this would be acceptable for is if she vandalized the property.

    I guess you few who agree with this sort of punishment must have all kinds of money you can throw away like that.