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Students Pledge Not to Swear

500 Students Sign Up in First 2 Hours

Found in: Classroom Management

I knew we had something going when 500 students signed up in the first two hours. In the next two weeks, another 493 signed up. Kids I didn't even know came up to me saying, I was on a field trip. Can I still sign up?

Can you imagine high school students getting so excited about an anti-swearing campaign? And lining up to pledge that they will not swear? Well, that's what happened. In fact, the campaign continues to grow at our school, Bremerton High School (BHS) in Bremerton, Washington, and also in the middle school.

So, where did Dare Not to Swear come from? It was an idea generated by me and the seniors in my Advanced Fashion Marketing class. For their final project, the students surveyed BHS students, teachers, and parents to see how they would improve the school in three areas—respect, responsibility, and safety. The top two items named in the survey answers were attendance and swearing. After studying the surveys, I decided, and the students quickly agreed, to work on the swearing problem by creating an anti-swearing campaign.

My 2005-2006 seniors founded the campaign and the current class is implementing it. Here are the steps we took:

Establishing the Campaign

Using information gathered from the survey, the students created campaign materials, including the slogan, "Dare Not To Swear." They tested the slogan with focus groups of BHS students, who felt it was catchy, to the point, and, most importantly, non-threatening.

Next, the students practiced their communication and persuasion skills in a 15-minute presentation to the principal and superintendent of schools. They described the campaign and requested $1000 to purchase customized blue and yellow wristbands with the phrase "I dare not to swear!"

They explained that the wristband giveaway would serve two purposes: a visual reminder for students not to swear and a public relations tool that would let the community and the students' parents know that the school was addressing the swearing situation. The wristbands were funded.

Running the Campaign

The students designed all the promotional items—t-shirts, banners, pledge sheets, pledge sign-up sheets, and information flyers—and they wrote notices for the school bulletin. They created all banners and signage using the visual merchandising skills they learned in the Beginning Fashion Marketing class.

They sent invitations to student groups encouraging them to sign up and letters to advisors and athletic coaches. Groups were asked to wear their uniforms or "blue and gold spirit wear" the day of the kick-off.

After I announced the campaign at a staff meeting, we brainstormed and came up with a variety of ideas for reducing swearing. A lesson on the inappropriateness of swearing in school. A lesson on developing a paragraph about the schoolwide campaign. Extra push-ups for the football team (and coach) for swearing. Teacher pacts to sign up along with their students.

Getting the Word Out to the Community

I e-mailed press releases to local newspapers and radio and television stations and followed up with phone calls. We asked the mayor of Bremerton and our governor to proclaim October 26th as "BHS Dare Not To Swear Day!" Which they did. And the proclamations were read during the daily televised bulletin.

Conducting the Campaign Sign Up

We kicked off the campaign during a lunch hour. We set up an official sign-up table, manned by three students, and had two additional students roaming the cafeteria with clipboards, sign-up sheets, and pledge forms.

Why They Signed Up

Being good role models for younger students was the top reason seniors gave for pledging not to swear. But why did the younger students sign up? Here are two students' comments about the program:

I signed up for the "Dare Not To Swear!" project because I wanted to stop swearing. I knew it could help me out at school and at home. I want to be a lady and this is helping me to think about what comes out of my mouth. I am doing better and my language is improving.

—Tara Solis, 11th grade

By signing up, I knew I could not only help myself, but also encourage others to widen their vocabulary and express their feelings in a better manner.  All in all, I’m glad I signed up for the "Dare Not to Swear!" campaign. It has really helped me and has also improved the language of my peers all around the school.

—Samantha Smith, 10thgrade

Keeping the Campaign Going

So how's it going now—midway through the first year of implementation? What are people saying and what are students doing?

Find out more about the Dare Not To Swear campaign in these articles:

» Keeping the Anti-Swearing Campaign Alive —School activities keep students on track.

» Anti-Swearing Campaign Takes Off — Students who worked on the campaign talk about Dare Not To Swear.

» Students Clean Up Their Act and "Dare Not To Swear! — High school students choose to hold their tongues. (Education World)

About the Author

Madonna Hanna, a Milken National Educator, has been teaching fashion marketing at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington, for the past ten years, and is currently serving on the district's Behavioral Committee. Prior to her career in education, Hanna worked in fashion merchandising. Hanna's marketing classes are among the career and technical classes that students may take as electives, in addition to their regular academic courses.

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