Katie Couric's Notebook: When Words Sting

Hi, everyone.

When do insults become hate speech? That's what some are asking after a California teen told classmates who were mocking her: "That's so gay."

That phrase landed Rebekah Rice in the principal's office and now her family is suing. Rebekah says the phrase meant "that's so stupid."

But words matter. Ann Coulter knew that when she used an anti-gay slur to describe John Edwards recently.

It's easy to discount expressions kids - and adults - throw around with friends. But words like "gay" and "retarded" and the "n-word" can cut like a knife.

Imagine what it feels like to be in a setting where you consistently hear a word used to describe something undesirable or stupid, and it also refers to YOU.

As parents, and individuals, let's create a zero tolerance zone, where offensive words are simply not acceptable. It's not about being politically correct or being hypersensitive. It's about doing the right thing.

That's a page from my Notebook.