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Three high school students in the US have been suspended from school for saying "vagina". This sounds silly, but gets even sillier when you learn that they said the word during a reading of "The Vagina Monologues".

The John Jay High School in New York state says that the girls have not been punished for using the word, but because they had disregarded a direct instruction. Or, as Principal Richard Leprine put it, they had disobeyed orders.

He said that while the school recogised the right to free speech it was not "unfettered".

You'll have to excuse us while we wonder how they were supposed to get through reading the play without saying "vagina". We will also have to contemplate the deep, deep irony of the whole situation.

The free-speech martyrs are Megan Reback, Elan Stahl and Hannah Levinson. Reback told reporters: "It wasn't crude and it wasn't inappropriate and it was very real and very pure."

Playwrite Eve Ensler described the school's position as "ridiculous, a throwback to the dark ages", and applauded the three teenagers for "standing up for art against censorship".

The three have been suspended for a single day over the incident. ®

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