When people are whispering to each other and purposefully leaving you out of their private conversation, you might find yourself experiencing feelings of loneliness, embarrassment or frustration. So perhaps it’s no wonder that the principal of Hempstead Middle School near Houston, Texas, Amy Lacey, might have felt left out often. Over 50 percent of the students at her school are primarily Spanish speakers, according to greatschools.org. Therefore if Lacey doesn’t understand what they’re saying because she doesn’t also speak Spanish, she might feel isolated, as if most everyone is in on the secret except her.
So Lacey did what any insecure playground bully would do — she forcibly shut them up. On Nov. 12, she announced over the school’s intercom that students are no longer permitted to speak Spanish in class, according to the website of local news station, KHOU.com.
It took two weeks for the district to take action after the announcement was made — they sent a letter home to parents from the superintendent’s office letting them know there is, in fact, no policy prohibiting the Spanish language. The letter said in part:
“We are continuing to Create a Culture of Excellence’ which includes embracing all students of all cultural and diverse backgrounds. Our priorities are our students.
“The district has received allegations regarding this issue and the district is investigating the matter. At this time the administrator is on administrative leave with pay until the investigation is completed and appropriate action is determined. This is all we can say at this time as there is a pending investigation on this matter.
“The district is committed to efficiently and effectively resolving this matter with as little disruption to our students and their learning environment as possible.”
Lacey is currently on paid administrative leave and is being investigated, but much damage is already done.
One sixth-grade student told KHOU that kids are now afraid to speak Spanish and risk getting in trouble, while others feel the announcement gave teachers and other students “a hall pass to discriminate.”
One student who told Lacey that Spanish was her first language said she was told in return, “Well, you can get out.”
Of course there is no secret. Because if Lacey was, indeed, feeling left out, perhaps she could have taken it upon herself to learn Spanish (if she doesn’t already speak and understand it). With the majority of her students speaking Spanish, it would seem the logical thing to do would be to get the minority up to speed with the majority. Besides, learning a second language — Spanish, especially — is never a waste of time.
Hopefully Lacey’s move wasn’t born from racism, as the last thing any kid needs is to be discriminated against. In school. By the principal.
Usually you’d think it would be select classmates doing something so wrong, not the person charged with guiding their educational journey. Whatever the root, though, it’s hard to see what, in Lacey’s mind, could have been a justifiable cause. When an administrator forbids students from speaking Spanish in class it seems like a classic case of: If she can’t join ’em, she might as well beat ’em, right? Although in this case, it appears as if she ended up getting hurt in the process, and in that case, everybody has lost.
Image credit: Zazzle
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