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Over the edge?

We're no role models.

And the cartoon characters of "South Park," an animated cable television show popular with young viewers, are not apologizing for it.

While the show is a hit with its growing fan base, its adult content is causing school officials to say the show goes too far.

The cartoon, shown on the Comedy Central cable channel, is set in the fictional Colorado town of South Park and features the misadventures of four foul-mouthed elementary school students who joke about topics ranging from sex and poverty to race and religion. And in every episode, one of the characters dies a violent death.

"The show's message is inappropriate," said James L. Gere, the superintendent of the 1,800-student Cromwell, Conn., school district, who recently wanted a district ban on all South Park paraphernalia.

The South Park clothing in Cromwell schools had gone unnoticed until an assistant principal viewed the show and brought in a videotape for other administrators to see. Officials then decided to ask the school board to issue the ban.

Although the district later dropped the idea because it raised the constitutional issue of freedom of speech, Mr. Gere felt the publicity helped bring the show to the attention of parents.

The Connecticut administrators are not the only ones troubled by the show. "South Park" also has the attention of officials at two schools in Georgia, one of which is an elementary school that has banned South Park clothing and another is a private K-12 school that has discontinued allowing students to hold lunchtime videotaped viewings of the show.

And two New Jersey districts recently sent letters to parents warning about the show's content.

"We've done our due diligence in indicating this is an adult program," said Tony Fox, a spokesman for Comedy Central, referring to the show's late time slot of 10 p.m. and its content label of TV-MA--television's most restrictive.

He added, "This is a social satire--none of our characters are role models."


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