Texas student fined hundreds for one swear word

Punctuation symbols

Student in Texas is fined for swearing. CC by Horia Varlan/Flickr

In one Texas classroom, there is a new punishment for swearing. A student who let loose one swear word has been charged $637. The 17-year old senior was technically ticketed for disorderly conduct and abusive language.

Swearing student has to pay $637 in a fine

On Oct. 6, 2010, Victoria Mullins swore in front of one of her teacher at North Mesquite High School in the Dallas area. The teacher reported to the school resource officer that Mullins had shouted “You trying to start !@*#?” in the classroom. A ticket was issued by the officer. The ticket cited the misdemeanor offense of abusive language and disorderly conduct. The original ticket was for $340, and Mullins pleaded not guilty. Then, the 17-year-old didn’t show up to the court hearing. That added a collection fee, no-show penalty and arrest warrant fee onto her original ticket. The total adds up to $637, payable to the state of Texas.

Fine means working – really

Victoria Mullins is no longer fighting the misdemeanor ticket. She is going to pay off her debt to the state working as a restaurant server instead. Tipped employees in Texas don’t make very much. In fact, $2.13 is what she will be getting as her base salary. Taxes then have to be taken out of her wages. She may be getting as little as $1.82 an hour if she doesn’t bring in tips. In order to pay off her swearing, Mullins might have to work 350 hours. As to the reason she swore in class, Mullins said “a kid who is really obnoxious, starts stuff with everyone and always gets on my nerves was bothering me.” She also said she is sorry about disturbing the class.

The First Amendment

Mullins has been told that she could have had a case if she’d showed up for court and brought up the First Amendment. Some say she was exercising free speech. However, two mitigating factors mean that a First Amendment argument most likely would not fly. A classroom isn’t considered public space, which is the first problem. Furthermore, disruptive speech isn’t protected.

Article cited

CBS News

Other recent posts by bryanh