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S. Pasadena does so solemnly not swear

Times Staff Writer

They’re swearing off profanity this week in South Pasadena.

And it’s about #!&@% time too, say some in this leafy residential city that to outsiders smacks more of Mayberry than misbehaving.

“Lack of civility can erode a community. It’s one of the issues across America that affects even small towns,” said Mayor Michael A. Cacciotti, who Wednesday night proclaimed March 3 through 7 “No Cussing Week” for his city’s 25,824 residents.

The assault on vulgarity is being led by 14-year-old McKay Hatch, who said he is tired of being barraged by four-letter words at school.

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McKay started a “No Cussing Club” last spring with 50 charter members at his middle school. He continued it last fall when he enrolled as a freshman at South Pasadena High School.

“Cussing just makes a person seem really unintelligent,” McKay said. “If you get in the habit of talking like that it can backfire if you let it slip during something like a job interview.”

The youngster acknowledged that four-letter words have tumbled from his mouth in the past.

“I’m not perfect. I’ve slipped before,” he said. “I’ve said the F-word. I used to say, ‘Oh fudge!’ and the other word would slip out. So I don’t say ‘fudge’ anymore.”

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He said he caught one of his teachers cursing Tuesday. “I told him this is ‘No Cussing Week.’ He said he had said ‘sheesh’ instead of $#@%.”

McKay took heat when he set up a registration table at the high school during club sign-up day.

“My dad didn’t want me to do it. He figured I’d be harassed,” he said.

“I got cussed out by about 50 people during club rush. But I had 120 people sign up. Later, a senior who had cussed me out apologized. He’s now the club vice president.”

Through his club Internet site, the boy has also been showered with pornographic and obscene rants e-mailed by opponents of his anti-cursing campaign.

His father deletes the obscenities when they come in.

The boy’s rough treatment was cited by Cacciotti.

“The proclamation is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the courage he had to stand up for what’s right,” Cacciotti said.

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The youngster said he was influenced by his parents, Brent and Phelecia Hatch. The parents of seven, they are coauthors of a child-rearing guide, “Raising a G-Rated Family in an X-Rated World.”

Brent Hatch, a real estate salesman and motivational speaker, helped his son set up the club website ( www.nocussing.com) and arranged for bright-orange T-shirts printed with a cartoon logo and the words, “Ya wanna hang with us? Don’t cuss!”

Membership is free and the club lists more than 10,000 members in all 50 states and almost two dozen foreign countries, said Hatch, the 41-year-old cousin of U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). He said members range in age from a 4-year-old child in Arizona to a 103-year-old South Pasadena man.

Some in the 3 1/2 -square-mile city seemed uncertain Wednesday over the need for the “No Cussing Week” proclamation, however.

"%$#@ it,” South Pasadena High senior Josh Valdez, 18, blurted when asked what he thought of the city’s action. He immediately clamped his hand over his mouth. “I meant to say ‘Darn it!’ ” he explained as he stood at the edge of the campus.

Tenth-grader Sheldon Shahniani, 15, said South Pasadena is the last place that needs a crackdown on curse words. “This should not be the center of a no-cussing movement. There’s no problem here,” Sheldon said.

Shane Valentine, a 14-year-old classmate of McKay, said he opposed the proclamation on constitutional grounds.

“A lot of people disagree because the 1st Amendment gives you freedom of speech,” Shane said.

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Another ninth-grader, James Shepherd, 15, said swearing can relieve pressure and help people express anger nonviolently.

“They’re just words. Words can hurt you only if you choose to be offended,” James said.

But classmate Eileen Suh, 15, said she appreciated the proclamation -- and Hatch’s validation from city officials.

“I felt bad for him during club rush,” she said.

Megan Mark, 14, agreed. “It’s gotten better this week,” she said of the cursing culture at the school. “McKay is really nice. He doesn’t deserve being attacked like he’s been.”

A few blocks away in the town’s business district, discussion also centered on “No Cussing Week” inside the Fair Oaks Cigars shop.

“We never swear,” laughed Johnathan Hawkins, 24, as he puffed on a $10 Ashton brand stogie.

“Of course, I swore a little this morning on the golf course when I lost a lot of golf balls and almost broke a club on my cart. And I was called an #&%@ by a guy I hit too close to,” said Hawkins, who is a law enforcement trainee.

Cigar shop owner Fayez Karroum, 41, described South Pasadena as a conservative, sedate city. “I don’t think profanity is a big problem here,” he said. “But profanity is part of our language.”

But then there are municipal smoking bans, he said. To him those are a real curse.

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bob.pool@latimes.com


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