Principal Who Told Students Not to Speak Spanish Loses Job

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 02:01 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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A principal who allegedly told students of a Texas school not to speak Spanish in class has lost her job, and the FBI has been asked to investigate possible civil rights violations.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the Hempstead school board will not renew the contract of middle school principal Amy Lacey, who has been on administrative leave since December after reportedly saying over the school's intercom that students were not to speak Spanish on campus.

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According to the Nation Center for Education Statistics, 55 percent of the school district in Hempstead, a rural town located 50 miles northwest of Houston, is Hispanic with 360 attending the middle school. Steve Murdock, a professor at Rice University and director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, said that half of all Texas public-school students are Hispanic.

Latino advocates argued that denying Hispanic students the right to speak Spanish in class sends a message of inferiority that could drive them from the education system altogether.

"When you start banning aspects of ethnicity or cultural identity," Augustin Pinedo, director of the League of United Latin American Citizens Region 18, told the Chronicle, "it sends the message that the child is not wanted: 'We don't want your color. We don't want your kind.' They then tend to drop out early."

Kiara Lozano, a sixth-grade student at Hempstead Middle School, told KHOU that after Lacey's announcement, "People don’t want to speak it [Spanish] no more and don’t want to get caught speaking it because they’ll get in trouble."

Jamie Cavendar, the parent of a student who attends Hempstead Middle School, told KHOU that she supports Lacey's decree because, "my children don’t know if they’re being talked about or being made fun of."

"We are continuing to 'create a culture of excellence,' which includes embracing all students of all cultural and diverse backgrounds," the district said in a statement.  "Our priorities are our students."

The hot-button issue has raised concerns that people angered by Lacey's suspension and impending termination are targeting Hispanics in the area.

Delma Flores-Smith, the district's superintendent, told the Chronicle that she has witnessed strangers watching her house and taking photos, and that her garbage has been rifled through and her yard vandalized.

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