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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 17:38 GMT
Girl suspended for saying 'hell'
A seven-year-old girl has been suspended from her school in the US for saying the word "hell" to a classmate.

Brandy McKenith from Pittsburgh said she was punished because she had explained to a boy who had said "I swear to God" that he would go to hell.

The Pittsburgh school district is investigating the suspension.

The student code bans profanity but does not give a clear definition of what profanity is, a Public Schools spokeswoman told local press.

'Biblical context'

Brandy told the BBC's World Today radio programme that she did not think she had been rude.

Her father, Wayne McKenith, told the programme he was outraged at this week's decision by Sunnyside Elementary to impose a suspension.

"I thought it was utterly senseless, especially in the context - the Biblical context - she used it in."

"Here in America we have real problems in schools," he said.

"We have guns, drugs, dope, and you're worried about a kid saying hell in a Biblical context - and you suspend her for that."

The girl's parents complained to the principal of the elementary school, which is in the north-eastern state of Pennsylvania.

Your comments

We just relocated from a different State to Pennsylvania. Sunnyside is not too far from where we reside. Our first impression about the area that public service here is very authoritative, demeaning, tricky and fascist. Children have no voice of their own. My 7-year-old son was expelled from school for staging his opinion to police officer that regularly visit the school.
No, I am not surprised that this little girl was expelled from school and the girl was right.. This is a "Hell" of a State.
Michael Kennedy, US

Her comment was insensitive and potentially disturbing to a 7-year old boy
James, Canada
Of course, to suspend a student for saying a single word in class is preposterous, but perhaps the girl did do something wrong. She publicly condemned her classmate from a religious view-point he might not share. Her comment was insensitive and potentially disturbing to a 7-year old boy.
James, Canada

The fact that the child was suspended sums up what is wrong with America! Drugs in schools, high murder rates, pre-emptive strikes on sovereign nations with wobbly intelligence.
Burts, UK

Go ahead. Suspend 7 year olds for saying "hell", or carrying a pair of nail clippers, or mentioning God at all. Censor Janet Jackson's right breast, and bash anyone over the head, call 'em and enemy combatant and throw them in jail for life if they disagree with anything Bush says!
How did we get here anyway? And is this where we really want to be? The fact that I am addressing this on a British news server says so much about the absurdity of where we are. Hell? Not yet but at this rate, the U.S. is definitely beginning to feel like an embarrassing joke, at the very least!
Carla, USA

As far as I can remember, suspension is supposed to be a last resort option
Shannon, Massachusetts, USA
As far as I can remember, suspension is supposed to be a last resort option for eliminating otherwise impossible behaviour cases from the school system. While this young girl is entitled to her beliefs, where was the teacher when this banter began? Such an emotionally charged theological argument, in addition to being lost on second-graders, could not have been an efficient use of class time. There are so many things wrong with this situation!
Shannon, Massachusetts, USA

Obviously the young girl had no concept that what she was saying could offend other students. Politically Correct behaviour cannot be expected of a 7 year old. A 7-year-old cannot differentiate the borders of religion or the understanding that there are cultures that do not believe the same. Schools need to be careful NOT to jeopardize the education of our children in lieu of their own beliefs.
JJ, Florida, USA

Completely insane but that is what we have come to expect from a country that comes to a standstill at the sight of a naked breast. Logic just goes out the window.
Michelle, Scotland

Telling someone they are going to Hell is often used as a kind of bullying by fundamentalist Christians. It's a bit like saying "my dad's bigger than your dad" and other threats.
People send their kids to school to get an education, not to be preached at.
Anne Brothwell, England

Suspension should be an absolute last resort
Steve Kitson, UK
Ridiculous! Suspension should be an absolute last resort - the child will probably be left with a fear of school and teachers for years. Chances are the girl didn't fully understand the meaning of what she said anyway.
Steve Kitson, UK

I would hear the school's side before passing judgement. Brandy's account certainly makes the school's reaction seem ridiculous, but perhaps the boy's presented a different account. Perhaps there have been previous incidents and warnings.
Ken, USA

Suspension for "hell"? That's simply unbelievable. As a high school student, I have heard teachers yell horrible words much worse than hell.
Jack, USA

I am extremely outraged by such a ridiculous decision to suspend a seven year old for something so insignificant. Such action should be reconsidered immediately.
Fay, Trinidad, The Caribbean

Isn't school for teaching children what is appropriate in a civilised manner?
Kent Whiteside, Canada
I work in a middle school (Junior High) and I hear words much worse than "hell". We, the staff, give the student a warning about their choice of language that they are using. If the student keeps using inappropriate words after a few warnings then the school will phone the parents, and maybe as a last resort the school will suspend the student. But all avenues to teach the student appropriate behaviour must be attempted before using the stick of suspension. Isn't school for teaching children what is appropriate in a civilised manner?
Kent Whiteside, Canada

She didn't tell him, "Go to hell!" As a teacher, I'm astounded that this little girl was suspended for stating her beliefs, whether or not we agree with her.
Ammaarah, USA

Of course the child should be suspended. The fact that the profanity was used correctly or in a specific context is not relevant. The child obviously meant the statement as a verbal attack.
Joe, USA

I think they did the right thing in suspending this girl. I don't think what she said was profanity, but I do think it constitutes harassment. Children in this country who are not Evangelical Christians are often persecuted at school by their classmates and teachers. I don't think the schools should allow this to go on, and telling another child that he is "going to hell" definitely falls into that category. We're home schooling our own children to save them from this and other types of harassment in public schools. What my children learn about religion should be taught at home and at church, not by classmates or teachers at school.
Kate, USA

Does freedom of speech not apply to seven year olds then?
Tom Bird,

Only in America. It does not surprise me that the age old puritanical double standard is showing up again. We spend countless media hours obsessing about a mammary gland to the point of neurosis and a girl gets sent home for saying a proper noun.
Nate, USA

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