Click here to view in a gallery.
ELKHART -- "S*#@t! I forgot my homework!"
Swearing is common in the hallways of high schools -- much more common than it was 10 years ago. Kids even bad-mouth the teachers sometimes, according to staff and students at area high schools.
It's not just rampant in school. It's crept into extracurricular activities and even sporting events, said one principal. Profanity has become part of many teenagers' everyday language.
"Oh man, I hear it all the time," said Dalton Roose, a sophomore at Concord High School. "More than once a day, much more than in middle school."
Dalton added that in middle school, kids thought cussing was cool, but in high school they just say the words because they don't think anything of it.
Skip Barnett teaches linguistics at Goshen College. He said he has seen a general downward decline of language.
"I've noticed it on the airwaves and television," said Barnett. "Culture has gotten a lot looser about profanity." Barnett added that a big influence on English language for teens today is the hip-hop culture and music.
"There is a fair amount of rough language in it ... strong, macho attitudes that are expressed," said Barnett.
Jimtown High School English teacher Jill McMillen said she hears the bad language more so in the hallway than in the classroom, explaining that students modify their behavior based on their environment and act more respectful in the classroom.
"Even though profanity is common in daily language in students and adults," said McMillen, "it's becoming more common and, dare say, acceptable everywhere. Look at what's acceptable on TV and in the movies." She said if a student swears in her classroom she gives him or her a verbal correction.
Profanity, in Webster's New World Dictionary, is described in one word: swearing. Vulgarism is defined as a "coarse word or phrase that is considered improper," while a swear word is literally a "profane or obscene word or phrase."
No matter what category a string of obscenities falls into, students say they hear the words echoing off the hallways daily.
Most teachers say there is some sort of disciplinary act for profanity, but the kids have a different story. They seem to think teachers have given up on it because it occurs so often. One student said the teachers even cuss sometimes.
"Kids cuss every day," said Shannon Thorpe, a junior at Concord High School.
Shawn Eby, another junior, agreed. "You're used to it," he said. "Some teachers don't care as much as others."
Shawn added that he hears cussing as often in the building as he does outside of school. Students agreed they hear it more in the passing periods than in the classroom, though.
Sophomore Aaron Kruse said sometimes teachers will say something to kids who cuss, but not too often. "It's just normal language, unless you're talking to a teacher," said Aaron. "Everybody talks like that."
Floyd Trosper, principal of Jimtown High School, said he has been working with kids for 34 years throughout his career. Not only has the bad language increased during his tenure, said Trosper, but in the 18 years he's been at Jimtown.
"Not only the use of bad, vulgar language, but a change in respect and manners. That's the kind of lingo that's happening on the street. They greet each other in unacceptable ways," said Trosper. "They don't think it's a big deal."
Trosper added he thinks it starts in their social groups, and then it isn't corrected at home, and it inevitably follows into the school.
"Unfortunately, it's happening around the dinner table, not just in school," Trosper pointed out. "It's a pattern of language that's ingrained and it's hard to change." When they catch kids cussing in school, Jimtown teachers deliver a warning first. If it continues, the student will get dismissed from the classroom and may get detention.
There is one word students won't ever get away with at Jimtown though -- the notorious "F" word.
"If you throw that out you're going home," said Trosper. "The kids know that."
Mark Tobolski, principal of Elkhart Memorial High School, has been in administration for six years. He says bad language is happening not only in high school, but also middle school and elementary school.
"It's not just Elkhart," he added. "There's just a lot more profanity." He said little kids mimic what they hear, and if they hear an adult cussing at a ballgame, they are going to do it, too.
"They hear it so much," he said. "Some of the kids don't understand ... they don't think it is profanity."
Tobolski said the discipline for bad language in the Elkhart schools ranges from detention to in-school detention, but the teacher deals with it if it happens in the classroom.
Contact Melissa Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.