Texas Principal Who Told Kids Not to Speak Spanish Fired
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that a principal who told students not to speak Spanish will lose her job. In December, the principal of Hempstead Middle School which is located 50 miles outside of Houston reportedly announced on the school's intercom that students were not to speak Spanish on campus. Amy Lacey, the school principal, was placed on paid administrative leave for the incident. Today's report from the Chronicle says that the Hempstead school board decided not to renew Lacey's contract.
The story has also brought focus to the rising number of Hispanic children, many of whom speak Spanish, in Texas schools. According to the Chronicle, civil rights activists have also weighed in.
Civil rights advocates say Lacey's suspension may have set off a campaign to intimidate Hispanics, including the district's superintendent, Delma Flores-Smith. They are calling for the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate possible civil rights violations. An FBI spokesman would not confirm an investigation.
Flores-Smith reports that she's seen strangers watching her house and taking photos. She says vandals have trashed her yard, and someone has rifled through her garbage. She is worried about her safety.
Last month, school employees found that vandals had damaged the brakes of three Hempstead Independent School District buses and had left behind the bedraggled remains of a dead cat.
A bus with visibly severed brake lines didn't leave the bus barn that morning. But two other buses, whose air-brake lines had been subtly nicked, carried children to school before the damage was discovered. Police investigated but didn't identify any suspects.
"A lot of this sounds like Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s," Pinedo said during Monday night's school board meeting, where the decision was made not to renew Lacey's contract.
Pinedo acknowledged that there's no hard evidence that the incidents are related or that they're hate crimes.
"But when the lives of children are put in danger, that's the bottom line," he said. "We don't know what the reasons are. Rather than guess, we're asking the FBI to step in."
He said LULAC and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund have asked the Department of Justice to investigate possible civil rights violations.
"The whole world is watching," said Tony Diaz, head of the Houston-based radio show Nuestra Palabra and founder of the advocacy group Librotraficantes. "Banning Spanish is a national issue."
"We got a lot of calls about activity in Hempstead," said Cynthia Coles, who represented the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice. "We came to support this board, this superintendent."
They also note that there's no evidence that speaking Spanish hampers learning English, and note that in most of the rest of the world, it's common to speak two or more languages.
At the school district's board meeting in January, Pinedo read a list of American Founding Fathers who spoke multiple languages. They included Benjamin Franklin (French) and Thomas Jefferson (French, Italian, Spanish and Latin).
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