Students at a Texas middle school say their principal got on the intercom last month and announced a ban on the use of Spanish in all classrooms.
The incident occurred on Nov. 12 at Hempstead Middle School in Hempstead, a tiny town about 50 miles mostly west of downtown Houston.
The principal who allegedly banned Spanish, Amy Lacey, has since been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the school district, reports local CBS affiliate KHOU.
The station notes that about half of the students enrolled at Hempstead Middle School are Hispanic in ethnic origin.
Four students interviewed by the station noted that they have grown up speaking Spanish. They don’t think a ban on Spanish at the school is fair but, in any case, it’s a huge part of their lives.
“There’s this one teacher and she told us, ‘If you speak Spanish in my class, I’m gonna write you up,’” claimed eighth-grade student Tiffani Resurez.
Still another eighth-grader, Yedhany Gallegos, explained that a teacher — possibly the same one Resurez mentioned — told her that she couldn’t speak Spanish in class.
“I was like, ‘That’s my first language.’ She was like, ‘Well, you can get out.’”
A number of parents are also irate. Some want Lacey sacked.
On Dec. 2, over two weeks after the principal made her announcement, Delma Flores-Smith, the superintendent of the Hempstead Independent School District, sent a letter to parents concerning the fracas.
The letter declares that “neither the district or [sic] any campus has any policy prohibiting the speaking of Spanish.”
A spokeswoman for the school district has also issued a statement lauding the embrace of “all students of all cultural and diverse backgrounds” but otherwise almost completely devoid of useful information.
Despite these assurances, some students reportedly remain skittish about speaking Spanish in Hempstead Middle School classrooms.
“People don’t want to speak it no more, and don’t want to get caught speaking it,” sixth-grader Kiara Lozano told KHOU.
On the school district’s website, a message from the superintendent is printed in both English and Spanish.
For the record, it’s not clear if the ban on Spanish in classrooms also applied to any Spanish classes at the middle school.