Swedish students punished for swearing


Northern Europe


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The Swedish Tysnes school in Sunnhordland started a crackdown on swearing. During a trial of a few weeks, the school notified parents their child swore at school. Currently, Tysnes school has decided to continue its approach.

The school, which includes students from grade 5 to 10, started a trial in January to see whether being strict on swearing would create a better and safer climate at the school. Earlier, a bullying report showed that students felt insecure, partly because of the foul language used among them, NRK Vestland reports. According to the school inspector, Synnøve Vines, the trial worked. “The school had to send students home daily during the trial period, but it worked.”

Therefore, the school has decided to continue its new approach to swearing. It changed its policy slightly, as the school does not immediately send a report home anymore. Vines: “Parents are crucial in overcoming these challenges. But now, I do not send a note home immediately. We collect before we give the parents feedback.”

Student council leaders Oliver Fagerborg en Iselin Nilsen are optimistic about the approach. “It has helped quite a lot. We have become sharper about not using bad language.” Also, the parent committee at the school supports the measures.

However, some language experts criticise the new policy. Professor Ruth Vatvedt Fjeld from the University of Oslo says that she would be “very careful” with such rules because no law forbids swearing in Norway. “Racist, hateful and discriminatory statements are against the law, but it is not illegal to swear. The boundaries of what is taboo and what vary from person to person. The school is therefore in a difficult position.”

Vatvedt Fjeld wrote a book on swearing. She furthermore warns that the ban on swearing could become problematic when the school defines a word as a curse when the same term is entirely ordinary for students at home. “Students may come to look down on their own family.”

In 2008, there was a national uproar when another school, Presterød ungdomsskule, expelled students that swore. The school had made a list of words that were not allowed, Dagen reports. Linguist Finn-Erik Vinje argued at the time that this policy was unreasonable. In his opinion, it was an enrichment for students if they learned to use “strong vocabulary.”



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