DC EXCLUSIVE: Administrator answers charges of student allegedly booted for favoring English
There are at least two sides to most every story—particularly the kind which end up as lawsuits.
The Daily Caller can now report the other side of the story involving Terri Bennett, the 50-year-old Pima Community College (PCC) nursing student who sued claiming that she was illegally suspended after complaining that her classmates were speaking in Spanish and orally translating English to Spanish so excessively that she was failing to learn.
The lawsuit focuses much of its ire on David L. Kutzler, the Arizona school’s nursing program director. For example, the filing claims that Kutzler responded to Bennett’s April request to limit classroom discussion to English by calling her a “bigot and a bitch.” It also asserts that Kutzler charged Bennett with “discriminating against Mexican-Americans.” (RELATED: Lawsuit: Arizona college suspended student because she wanted English-only classes)
In an email exchange with TheDC, Kutzler, a retired 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, said that these allegations and many others are false.
“Terri came to me outraged because two classmates were having private conversations in class, to which she was not a party, in Spanish,” Kutzler explained to TheDC. “She demanded that I force students to speak only English to each other.”
One of Bennett’s causes of action stems from Article 28 of Arizona’s state constitution which establishes English as “the official language of the state” and forbids discrimination or penalties against anyone who “uses or attempts to use English in public or private communication.”
Kutzler emphasized his belief that the state-owned school’s administrators have “no legal or policy basis” to force anyone engaged in a private conversation to speak English.
The retired major also emphatically denies Bennett’s contention that he called her any derogatory names.
“That only happened in her mind. At one point she became exasperated and said, ‘Oh, so now I’m the bitch,'” Kutzler told TheDC. “I actually didn’t know how to respond, so I said nothing.”
Kutzler’s story also differs from Bennett’s concerning the “bigot” allegation.
“At one point in the conversation, Terri proclaimed ‘I’m not a bigot.’ I told her that trying to force people to speak only English in her presence could easily be seen as bigoted,” Kutzler said.
The nursing program director also rejected allegations of incessant in-class Spanish-speaking and oral translation from Spanish to English.
“Terri claims that two students would translate the lecture to each other during class,” Kutzler told TheDC. “The students sat directly in front of the instructor, who stated that the students did converse in Spanish, but they weren’t translating the lectures, and they weren’t disruptive. Oddly, the two students were able to pass all the exams, which are written in English and proctored with no talking allowed.”
One of Kutzler’s main assertions is that PCC is not some foreign-language den. “All of our courses are taught in English; all student-instructor interactions are in English; all learning materials are in English and all tests are in English,” he proclaimed.
Statistics show that 38 percent of students identify as “Latino/Hispanic.”
Finally, while Bennett’s lawsuit claims that she left a meeting with Kutzler in distress and in tears, Kutzler suggests that tears were also shed by other students because of Bennett’s behavior.
“Terri began to harass and intimidate other students. I had at least two students in my office in tears, wanting to quit the program because of Terri’s intimidation,” Kutzler alleged in an email to TheDC. “I have a duty to protect my students.”
After a series of meetings that ultimately resulted in a long suspension for Bennett, 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.
At a press conference in Tucson last Monday, Bennett’s attorney announced that he will ask for a termination of the suspension and a six-figure damages amount from PCC.
Pima Community College counts among its most famous attendees Jared Loughner, who killed six people and severely injured U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011. Loughner was suspended from the school in September 2010 for bizarre, threatening behavior.
Kutzler said that he has been “deluged with hate mail and violent voice mails” since the TheDC reported about the lawsuit last week.
“Some of the hate mailers have actually apologized once they heard my side of the story,” he added.