A teacher reported a student swearing in her classroom -- and the school officer wrote a ticket. Image: Flickr / Cherice / CC-BY

In one Texas classroom, swearing comes with new consequences. One student got a $637 fine for swearing in the classroom. The 17-year old senior was technically ticketed for disorderly conduct and abusive language.

Student fined $637 for swearing

On Oct. 6, 2010, Victoria Mullins swore in front of one of her teachers 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. The officer issued a ticket for disorderly conduct and abusive language. The original ticket was for $340, and Mullins pleaded not guilty. However, the 17-year- old did not show up to her 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.

Mullins working to pay off fine

Victoria Mullins is no longer fighting the misdemeanor ticket. Instead, she is working as a restaurant server in order to pay off her debt to the state. In Texas, minimum wage for a tipped employee, such as a server, is $2.13 per hour. Tips must be reported and taxes are taken out of the tips, so Mullins could be making as little as $1.82 take-home wage per hour. That means, worst-case scenario, Mullins could have to work 350 hours or more to pay for her shouted expletive in class. Mullins has said that she was wrong for disturbing the class, but she said “a kid who is really obnoxious, starts stuff with everyone and always gets on my nerves was bothering me.”

Does the ticket violate First Amendment rights?

There are some saying that Mullins could have a First Amendment case. The argument is that Mullins was exercising her right to free speech. However, two mitigating factors mean that a First Amendment argument most likely would not fly. First, Mullins was in a classroom, which is not considered a public space. Second, Mullins was acting in a disruptive manner — and much like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, disruptive speech is not always protected.


CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20030152-504083.html

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