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Teacher Fined $15K for Cursing in Front of Students

By Meredith Carroll |

Curse word

Is a $15K fine too extreme for a teacher who said a word his high school students likely say themselves?

That’s one large swear jar.

A teacher at Washington Heights in New York City was docked $15,000 for using a single four-letter Spanish swear word in class.

Carlos Garcia teaches at the High School of International Business and Finance and apparently uttered “c—” in front of several students. He denied saying it, but also said it was no big deal.

A judge said the fine was disproportionate and reduced his penalty to just $1,000, which is still a lot of pencils or lunch trays.

“No matter what it meant at some point, it’s now like the word ‘damn’ or ‘hell,’ ” his lawyer told the New York Daily News.
Garcia had been suspended and subsequently accused the Department of Education of using a court interpreter’s X-rated definition of the word when translating student testimony.

The Department of Education, however, argued that the interpreter “provided a literal translation of the word ‘c—’ and that based on the context with which it was used, it could only have been understood as ‘insulting, provocative or profane.’”

In a hearing, Garcia had been found guilty of misconduct for using a Spanish word that can be translated in English as various cuss words. He argued it’s a common expression of frustration or excitement.

Garcia is now teaching at another school.

It seems to me that while it’s not appropriate for a teacher to curse in front of class, this was a high school class who likely has heard — and uttered — the word countless times before. That doesn’t make it right, but anything more than a slap on the wrist seems a bit draconian, old-fashioned, and out-of-touch to me.

Do you think the punishment fit the crime?

Image: Creative Commons

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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “Teacher Fined $15K for Cursing in Front of Students

  1. goddess says:

    What twaddle. I’d take up a collection for him.

  2. Becky says:

    Am I the only one racking my brains for a 4 letter Spanish swear word starting with ‘c’?

  3. Meagan says:

    @Becky Nope. I can certainly think of a “c” swear word, but if it’s Spanish, that’s news to me.

    So am I the only one who LOVED it when a teacher slipped up and cursed in class? I’m not saying it’s appropriate, but it makes them more real, and it seems a pretty trivial thing to fire someone over, or fine such an enormous amount.

  4. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Becky — I can’t think of what it could be, either. I can only think of one four-letter “c” curse, but it doesn’t match the rest of the description.

    @Meagan – I never had a teacher slip (that I can remember), but I would have loved it, too.

  5. Meagan says:

    Ok… the word is probably coño. It does translate to the word we’re thinking of, but the guy is right, it doesn’t have the same level of “bad” in Spanish. I’d link to the page where I found it, but babble isn’t letting me.

  6. Álvaro Degives-Más says:

    What a disastrous case of a “Department of Education” flaunting ignorance of language, linguistics and semantics, named in a proportional progression of their ignorance.

    Yes, the word in question is most certainly the literal equivalent of the English 4-letter word coincidentally also starting with a “c” but in everyday usage – including the instance in question – it’s just as much equidistant from its literal designation (the “signified” meaning) as the English f-bomb is from its semantic significance; there; too, the word has no relation with the signified or designated activity. It’s just a common expletive, dagnabbit!

    Aside from griping about the disgusting linguistic ignorance of that department of alleged “education” I believe there’s a separate cause for suing the “interpreter” for $15,000+ for miserably failing to make that crucial distinction between an uttered word (in another language, no less) and its contextual meaning. And if that interpreter was put on the stand as a witness, I’d have been more than happy to prompt a rebuttal. Because in untrained hands, a dictionary is about as useful as an authoritative source for identifying specific meaning in a specific context as would be a map without either a compass or a reference of points of departure and destination.

    Given the available information, this sordid affair rather reeks of implicit and projected racism than of guarding the tender souls of the teacher’s students. It’s a double crime: against common sense and academia alike.

  7. Mar says:

    Seriously? In high school, our favorite, best teacher had kind of a dirty mouth. He realized what would make us pay attention, and sometimes that was to be a bit off-color. It was with the understanding that it was all in good fun, and we retained information far better when it was presented in a way we found engaging. If that means talking about “Lake Pat-a-coochie” so be it.

  8. TBerry says:

    One of the best teachers I ever had in high school swore in class. As long as he didn’t swear at the kids or call the kids names then I don’t see the issue. I grew up in a sheltered, rural New England community and none of these were new to me. I’m sure kids from Washington Heights have heard it. Even if it was just on the streets in passing. Washington Heights is home top Columbia University and I don’t know many college kids her curb their language.

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