Lawsuit: Arizona college suspended student because she wanted English-only classes

A nursing student at Pima Community College (PCC) has filed a lawsuit claiming that she was illegally suspended after she complained that her classmates were speaking in Spanish and orally translating English to Spanish so excessively that she was failing to learn.

In early April, the student, Terri Bennett, formally requested a rule limiting classroom discussion to English. Nursing program director David Kutzler allegedly responded by called her a “bigot and a bitch,” reports Courthouse News Service.

Kutzler allegedly charged that Bennett was “discriminating against Mexican-Americans” and threatened to report her complaint as a violation of the school’s policies against discriminatory behavior and harassment.

“You do not want to go down that road,” he said, according to the filing.

Bennett, 50, recalls leaving the meeting in distress and in tears.

A second meeting two days later involved Bennett, Kutzler and three more PCC staffers. The public school officials allegedly told Bennett that she would “not get a job” because of her desire to limit class discussion to English. She claims they said she should “seek counseling” and that she might have a learning disability.

Kutzler also allegedly produced an anonymous evaluation form that Bennett had filled out, also suggesting a “no Spanish in the classroom” rule.

Later in April, Bennett received critical feedback from a teacher—for the first time, she maintains. The critique chastised Bennett for “ineffective communication skills.”

Then, on April 22, Bennett received a suspension letter from the state-owned school. The charges levied against her included discrimination, “stalking” and “bullying.” She also allegedly argued with a professor about the correct answer to a test question.

Her indefinite suspension was to last “until she receives counseling to improve her communication style and to learn to be less abrasive,” the lawsuit states.

“Six armed” campus security officers promptly escorted her off PCC’s Desert Vista campus. The officers then allegedly followed her several miles down the road to Interstate 10.

Bennett sued the community college and its boards of directors in an Arizona state court under several causes of action including harassment, breach of contract, retaliation, discrimination and violations of the Arizona Constitution. The college and its board of governors are the only defendants.

Article 28 of Arizona’s state constitution establishes English as “the official language of the state.” Section 3 states: “A person shall not be discriminated against or penalized in any way because the person uses or attempts to use English in public or private communication.”