The Arizona Republic

Bill aims to censor teachers’ speech

Group wants them to comply with FCC

- By Alia Beard Rau

Arizona’s teachers better watch their mouths.

A group of Republican state lawmakers is backing legislatio­n that would require teachers to limit their speech to words that comply with Federal Communicat­ions Commission regulation­s on what can be said on TV or radio.

The FCC regulation­s limit obscene, indecent and profane speech. Its determinat­ion of what falls into those categories is broad and based on context. For example, the FCC defines profanity as “language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.”

Senate Bill 1467, sponsored by Sen. Lori Klein, R-anthem, establishe­s penalties for anyone teaching in a public school who violates the FCC standards. Penalties range from a oneweek suspension for a first offense to being fired for a third offense.

Klein said the bill stems from constituen­t complaints about teachers in local high schools using inappropri­ate language in front of students.

“Students are young and impression­able, and teachers should not be using four-letter words in the classroom,” Klein said.

She said she is still tweaking the bill and will likely lower the punishment for a first offense to a warning.

The bill applies to any public preschool, K-12 school, community college or university. But that may change if the bill progresses. Klein said she did not intend for the bill to apply to community-college or university classes.

The Senate Education Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing for the bill.

Senate Majority Leader An-

Continued from Page B1 dy Biggs, R-gilbert, has signed on in support of the bill.

He said he believes the bill is not a free-speech violation, citing U.S. Supreme Court allowances for reasonable speech restrictio­ns based on “time, place and manner.”

Chris Maza, who has taught high-school French for more than 20 years, said teachers should not use inappropri­ate language in their classrooms — and for the most part already don’t.

“I don’t find this to be such a significan­t issue that we would have to have a law,” said Maza, who currently serves as president of both the Paradise Valley Education Associatio­n and the Washington Elementary School District governing board.

He said the bill is too broad in its restrictio­ns. It limits teachers’ language wherever they are, whether in the classroom or with a colleague.

Maza said he believes this is a local-control issue best left to the school districts.

Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-tempe, a former high-school teacher and current Tempe Union High School District governingb­oard member, said he understand­s the concern but not the proposed solution.

“In K-12 classrooms, teachers shouldn’t be using those words with their students,” he said. “But the school districts should implement the policies.”

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