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Students focus on positive language with ‘No Swear November’

Hazel Park High initiative benefits Hazel Park Youth Assistance

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 1, 2015


HAZEL PARK — Students at Hazel Park High are making an effort to keep their language clean for a good cause.

The school is selling wristbands and swear jars for No Swear November, with the proceeds going to Hazel Park Youth Assistance, which assists families at Hazel Park High in a number of ways, including shopping sprees for school supplies.

The idea is that even when there’s no mean intent, swear words carry a negative tone that can make the room feel less inviting for others. The hope is that students will learn to stop cussing as a crutch, and instead express themselves with words that are more constructive.

Those who buy the swear jars for $5 can use them to encourage positive communication in the household. For example, every time someone in the family swears, they contribute a dollar to the swear jar. Local businesses are also embracing No Swear November, putting out swear jars to collect money for Hazel Park Youth Assistance.

The wristbands, which sell for $2, serve as a reminder not to swear.

“The kids like them,” said Steve Morton, a social studies teacher at Hazel Park High, who has worked on No Swear November along with English teacher Eric Brodsky, art teacher Nancy Sly and science teacher Pam Sparks. “We’re trying to get more kids involved this year to kind of put peer pressure on each other to limit the negative words and profanity that is often heard among teens these days. It’s making swearing less acceptable, and it helps to expand their vocabulary so they’re more positive, one-on-one and in groups.”

Heather Lee, a senior at Hazel Park High, has been involved in No Swear November for all three years. She said she notices an improvement in student behavior, at least through the end of the school year. When summer break is over and school resumes in the fall, there tends to be another spike in swearing, especially with all of the freshmen arriving from the junior high.

“Most of the younger students tend to want to follow what the older students do, so when the older students say, ‘Don’t swear — it’s No Swear November,’ the younger students tend to follow and do the same,” Lee said.

Once again, the school’s Empowerment Zone is also involved. The group is a think tank for students to address issues such as bullying that students may face in school. They’ve been creating promotional materials such as posters for No Swear November.

“We talk about the ways cussing is bad and why it shouldn’t be used,” said Kyle Drappeaux, a sophomore at Hazel Park High and a member of Empowerment Zone. He noted that swearing can be a barrier to gainful employment. “Our goal is to try to stop it so that kids whose vocabulary is full of profanity can enjoy more success in the future.”

Morton said it’s unrealistic to think swearing can be eliminated altogether, but the movement is more about a cultural change.

“We’re not like the language police,” Morton said. “Some people laugh at the idea of not swearing, but we tell them it’s more about making a positive environment. It’s about improving the community.”

Those interested in purchasing a No Swear November wristband for $2 or a swear jar for $5, benefiting Hazel Park Youth Assistance, can do so by visiting Hazel Park High School at 23400 Hughes Ave.