This year's story, from New York state, involves three girls who were told in advance not to use the word "vagina" when quoting from the Vagina Monologues at a high school event sponsored by a literary magazine. They used the word, got suspended, and all hell broke loose.
Yes, it's just a word. Let's see what I had to say about it back in 2005, shall we?
Should girls at school really be wearing "I heart my vagina" t-shirts or pins? If so, what would truly be wrong with boys wearing "I heart your vagina, too" t-shirts? The girls are not being "empowered", they're objectifying themselves--something they'll then complain about.
I can't talk about your vagina or my penis in school without possibly losing my job, losing my teaching credential, and facing a sexual harassment claim. Why should the girls get away with it? Either a word is acceptable for everyone to say, or it's not. In this regard I'm reminded of the word "nigger"--either it's ok for all of us to say, or it's ok for none of us to say. We can't have dividing lines about who gets to use which words.
Some things are not appropriate for public discussion, and this is one of them. As I said before:
I'm not convinced that the vagina pins and shirts are appropriate for wear in public, much less at school. Notice I said appropriate, not legal. And given sexual harassment laws, which often criminalize the slightest language, word, or contact, isn't a pin glorifying your vagina crossing the line? I think that schools could reasonably assume that shirts/pins which discuss sex organs would be disruptive--but more than that, they contribute to incivility... Is it too much to ask that we try to create a reasonably civil atmosphere at our public schools?
The fact that the girls' parents are "supporting" them just shows how far we've gone from a civic spirit to a selfish one. To paraphrase, Have you no decency, ma'am?
Update, 3/14/07: The principal has his say. Then he's overruled. Pathetic.