The issue, in this case, deals with a child saying a "bad word." The bad word in question is "bitch." Now, admittedly, in some contexts it would be entirely inappropriate for a kid to use that word, particularly if applied to a person, such as a classmate. Name-calling is not good.
On the other hand, the child in question apparently didn't know the word. It was spelled (incorrectly), and the child pronounced it, at which point someone tattled, and stupidity ensued.
This brings me to two points:
- Intention is key. A word is not a "bad" word if it is merely pronounced. You'd think from the administrative reaction to this event that merely invoking the word "bitch" would cause one of the Ancient Great Ones to manifest on the spot (which would probably make dog shows a lot more interesting to the layman, but I digress) or something equally dramatic. The child in question didn't call someone a bitch, just said the word.
- Context is also key. Clearly there are times when using the word "bitch" is useful, appropriate, and correct (e.g., the aforementioned dog show) and inoffensive. And in other cases, such as when applied to human animals, it might be offensive (although I'm unclear how this makes it a bad word). I can think of other words that have no useful, correct, inoffensive uses (though I'm finding it amusing to try). But somehow, making it a punishable offense to say the proper names of certain female animals, free of context, seems absurd.
Words don't offend people. People offend people using words.Words are like guns and bullets (more like bullets in this context, but I think this simile is going to be dangerously overextended if I pursue this): they are useful tools that can be used for good or evil (and a huge range of other things in between), but they have no intrinsic value. It is we humans who employ and interpret them that determine goodness and badness.
Overreaction seems to be what we do best these days. As my scuba instructor used to say, "Stop. Breathe. Think." Good advice in many contexts.