Connecticut potty-mouth payment plan

High school education in Hartford, Conn., just got a lot more expensive.

Most people are familiar with the idea of a swear jar, but Hartford Public and Bulkeley high schools have taken the concept to the next level.

In keeping with the longstanding American tradition of knee-jerk reactions by high school officials, administrators and on-site police officers at the two schools have begun fining students $103 per curse word.

“We’re sending a message to the parents and to the teachers,” said Sandy Cruz-Serrano, senior adviser to Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry, in an Associated Press story. “We are trying to bring back order to the schools” – and, it appears, revenue.

In fighting disrespect with disrespect rather than properly disciplining students, the schools are doing little more than imposing a tax on teenagers for, essentially, being teenagers – a troubling prospect in a community such as Hartford, which is not known for its affluence. Unless the money collected is being invested into the schools, administrators and police are taking sizeable wads of cash from the already impoverished and pointing them in the direction of destitute.

So how effective has the measure been? That depends who you ask.

“Before, the kids were swearing all the time,” Hartford Police Officer Roger Pearl said. “It went from many incidents to almost nothing,” he said. “It’s quiet in the halls.”

But the policy has its detractors, not the least of whom are the parents required to pony up if students are unable to pay their fines. Academic authorities on the matter aren’t convinced of the plan’s worth, either.

“Research says that punishing kids doesn’t teach them the right way to act,” said George Sugai, an instructor in school discipline at the Neag School of Education at UConn.

“It’ll stop me from swearing,” said Hartford Public sophomore Keila Ayala. “Well, it won’t stop me from swearing, but I won’t cuss at the teachers.”

There it is, straight from the source of the problem. Of note, though, is how Ayala received her fine: She was cited for screaming at an officer while being restrained for attempting to punch him.It looks like school officials have their priorities in order.