School Board member Anthony Fontana wants people to understand that the new policy that the School Board recently adopted is not a “no cursing” policy. The new policy is to stop school employees, including school board members, from intentionally embarrassing or humiliating each other or students with words.
Those words used to harm someone may or may not be curse words.
The new policy states: “No employee of the Vermilion Parish School Board during the course and scope of his or her employment shall use any word or speech to intentionally embarrass, humiliate, harass, denigrate or deride any student, fellow employee or member of the public.”
Fontana helped write the policy and he gave his reasoning why it was written like this instead of just having a policy that says school employees and students can not use curse words.
“The new policy is trying to prevent an excess behavior — using speech or words to intentionally embarrass or humiliate a person,” Fontana stated. “If you use a curse word, you may not intentionally embarrass or humiliate. You can use a curse word and get in trouble if it comes under a criminal act. We do not need that because it comes under state law.”
Fontana said the new policy is not intended to get anyone in trouble for saying a curse word. The new policy, Fontana said, is written for, “teachers and coaches who are out in the field who are downgrading kids. It has to be intentional.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently learned of the School Board’s new policy. Marjorie Esman, the executive director of the ACLU and ACLU Foundation of Louisiana, has concerns about the new policy.
“This policy is vague, because nobody can know what might embarrass someone else,” Esman said. “It will be extremely difficult to enforce, because it’s almost impossible to prove intent under these circumstances. And because it prohibits teachers from saying anything that might “harass” a student, it could be used to prevent a teacher from correcting a student who is engaged in inappropriate conduct.”
Fontana, who is a lawyer, agrees enforcing the new policy will be challenging. “I agree enforcement is difficult in these circumstances. You have to look at intent.
“You will know when it is intentional, when it is excessive,” he said. “When a coach pulls a kid on the sideline and degrades the kid in front of the whole crowd. That is what we are trying to prevent. He looses it.”
Fontana said each case will be looked at individually, and if the School Board can prove certain things were said to intentionally harm an individual, then the person violated the new policy.
“It is not just a cursing policy,” he said.
School Board Bill Searle, who first brought up the issue about cursing a month ago, did not vote in favor of Fontana’s new policy. He wanted a policy that stated school board employees and school board members could not curse at work or while at meetings.
Fontana explained to Searle that the School Board can punish a school board member from cursing during a meeting.