Education

New Jersey Students Walk Out After Teacher Instructs Them to 'Speak American'

Several carried flags from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil.

Photo Credit: YouTube Screengrab

A teacher in Cliffside, New Jersey, is getting a lot of flak since a video surfaced online of her telling students that: 

The men and women that are fighting are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish, they’re fighting for your right to speak American. 

According to reports, the teacher was facing off with a predominantly Hispanic class at Cliffside Park High School—after telling a couple of students to stop whispering in Spanish during the class. According to reports, this teacher is an English teacher at the school. I guess English is her second language … to American. Students called the teacher’s remarks racist at the time and some left the class.

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On Facebook, some former alumni are calling for the board of education to investigate the "discriminatory" behavior and the "belittling" of a bilingual student.

Meanwhile, others are defending the teacher, who has been identified on social media, as a "great person" and a "wonderful teacher."

NorthJersey.com reports that dozens of students walked out of classes Monday morning in protest of this event.

"Mostly every student here is basically from another country," Seda Avci, a freshman, said before classes began. "So it hurts other people, knowing that they don't want them to speak their own language."

The students, some wearing or waving flags, including those of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Brazil, gathered on the steps in front of the high school during the fourth period of the school day. Passing motorists honked their horns in support of the students, and residents stopped to watch.

Here’s the bottom line, regardless of your feelings about teachers and the difficulties that teachers face in classrooms: if your “bad day” includes being racially insensitive and also entirely historically incorrect, you are probably in the wrong business. The only war that Americans fought, where the Spanish language could even be considered a tangential issue might be the Spanish-American War, that ended with the United States having control (for about 70 years) of Cuba. Cuba, a Spanish-speaking country. 

You can watch the interaction below.

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Walter Einenkel is a social media editor and writer at DailyKos.