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Posted at 12:54 PM ET, 05/18/2010

Adult student penalized for one curse word

By Valerie Strauss

The largest community college in Mississippi barred a 30-year-old student from a speech course because a professor became upset when the student uttered one curse word after class was over.

The Hinds Community College student was not accused of cursing, but rather with “flagrant disrespect on any person on college owned or controlled property.”


This is what happened, according to an audio recording of the hearing against the student, Isaac Rosenbloom.

Rosenbloom stayed after class to review a bad grade he got on a speech. At one point, he said, to another student, “This is going to going to [expletive] up my entire GPA.”

The teacher, Barbara Pyle, immediately became upset, by both her written account and Rosenbloom’s and told him he couldn’t speak like that. Rosenbloom said she told him she was sending him to “detention,” but he noted that there was no detention at community college for 30-year-old students.

Pyle reported him to the dean, and in her statement, said that Rosenbloom was not welcome back in her class. He also received 12 demerits—three short of suspension.

“Outside of official class time, HCC has no authority to punish a student for cursing in this way or for being ‘disrespectful,’” said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that fights for free speech.

Should Rosenbloom have been thrown out of the class, or did the teacher overreact?


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By Valerie Strauss  | May 18, 2010; 12:54 PM ET
Categories:  Higher Education  | Tags:  cursing at college  
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While his choice of words might not have been ideal, the teacher overreacted, big time. "I don't allow cursing in my classroom" is one thing. Trying to get the guy suspended and kicking him out? Ye gods, what sort of Puritan society do we live in?

Posted by: | May 18, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: klaw009x | May 18, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

While it is inappropriate for any student who is not on extremely friendly terms with a teacher to drop the f-bomb with a prof or teacher, the prof in this case has totally overreacted. I teach high school and if a student used such language with me I would admonish her, explain its inappropriateness, and ask for an apology. Assuming I got an apology, it would go no further. Heading straight to the dean and requesting that the student not be allowed to return to class is only appropriate if this had happened several time before and the behavior hasn't been corrected.

Posted by: chuckgoetz | May 18, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Listening to the audio recording provided by FIRE, Barbara Pyle called this a "severe cursing incident". One incidence of the F-word not directed specifically to her is a severe cursing incident? And she didn't even show up to the hearing - she sent a self-serving statement that conflicted with the student's.

I find it interesting that she is an instructor in the Speech, Theater and Dance department. She seems to have a tendency towards hyperbole and drama.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | May 18, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I just finished listening to the half-hour or so of audio.

First, I'm finding it ironic that this is all happening because of an Oral Communication class. A class that is required to get an AAS degree at Hinds - this is something Mr. Rosenbloom had to take, and now probably has to retake. Waste of time and money.

Next - from the tones of the voices, it sounded as if whatever board Mr. Rosenbloom was sitting in front of seemed determined to dislike him or find him guilty (the rather quick response to time, place and manner doctrine I found interesting - very CYA move). Without visual/body language clues, it's hard to say, but based on the lack of successful appeal, Mr. Rosenbloom never stood a chance.

He admitted that the grade was fair, he admitted to using the word, apologized for using it and he said if he was allowed back into the class he would remain civil to the instructor. What more did these people want?

Academia: The fighting is so dirty because the stakes are so low.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | May 18, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The teacher must be having personal problems to react in this way. The fact that she told him that he was going to "detention" suggests that she might not be dealing with a full deck. If the student doesn't get satisfaction from the college, he should take legal action.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | May 18, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

What is the teacher's background? From this account, she seems to be acting more like an elementary teacher (trying to control the student's actions apart from class, "detention," reacting to one curse word, etc.) Perhaps she needs to go back to college herself to refresh her memory about the difference between college and grade school.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | May 21, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Nothing about his behavior is appropriate in the college setting. The fact that so many people condone this as "free speech" demonstrates the continued erosion of etiquette and general respect for other people in our society.

Posted by: HRAnalyst | May 22, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

A community college -- so a public school, eh? With NO ability to censor speech that didn't occur in class time.

The teacher sounds like a loon, the administration backing her up by issuing "demerits" deserves to get sued, and the student is owed an apology.

Yeah, he might have owed HER an apology that night, if she had just said, "Hey, that's offensive and this is my classroom, please knock it off." But when she went full-mental-jacket on him, (no, that's not a typo), she lost her right to an apology.

Posted by: ankhorite | May 22, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

"Nothing about his behavior is appropriate in the college setting."

You are correct.
The professor should be removed and placed in a more appropriate setting for her maturity level, Say, teaching 3rd grade. AFTER a mental evaluation, her behavior is not normal. The adult student was doing nothing disruptive, it was after class, and his comment strikes me as being the best way to describe what the grade is going to do to his GPA. The teaches actions were completely inappropriate, and the boards judgment in letting it stand is highly questionable.

Posted by: george421 | May 23, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

well someone was on her period

Posted by: kabooken | May 23, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Considering all that is going on in the world right now that is kind of absurd.


Posted by: clermontpc | May 23, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

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