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Trumped up charge

Newspapers across the United States kicked up a stink last week about a school in Maine that had banned "intentional farting".

It started in the Knox County Times, which said Camden Rockport Middle School had threatened detention for wind-breakers.

It trumpeted claims that boys had been competing to make the loudest trouser coughs, quoting the school's newsletter which said "it started out as a funny joke and eventually turned into a game".

It added: "This is the first rule here that prevents the use of natural bodily functions. The penalty for intentional farting is a detention, so keep it to yourself!"

Unfortunately, the story was a lot of hot air. The publication quoted was not the school's newsletter but a freesheet, The Firecracker, produced by a group of its Year 9 girls.

Maria Libby, the headteacher, was not even aware of the freesheet's existence when she began to receive phone calls from TV channels demanding an interview.

In the real newsletter, Mrs Libby told parents there was no official ban on bottom burps. But she acknowledged that some teachers had told pupils they would be put in detention if they continued tooting the horn on purpose. "There is truth to that," she said. "Intentional flatulence can be a disruption to class, and we already have rules addressing disruptive behaviour."

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