image1192(by Drew Karedes, KHOU 11 News) HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Students at Hempstead Middle School near Houston Texas said Principal Amy Lacey told kids over the intercom that they could no longer speak Spanish while in class.

KHOU 11 News has learned that Lacey is now on paid administrative leave while the district investigates.

According to students, Lacey made the announcement back on Nov. 12. It took more than two weeks for a letter to be sent home by the superintendent.

The letter that went home on Dec. 2 stated that “neither the district or any campus has any policy prohibiting the speaking of Spanish.”

“People don’t want to speak it no more, and they don’t want to get caught speaking it because they’re going to get in trouble,” said sixth-grade student Kiara Lozano.

A number of students believe the principal’s announcement has given some teachers and fellow classmates a hall pass to discriminate. “There’s one teacher that said, if you speak Spanish in my class, I’m going to write you up,” said eighth-grader Tiffani Resurez.

More than 50 percent of the students enrolled at Hempstead Middle School are Hispanic. 

Students said the school has not resolved the confusion surrounding the principal’s attempt to ban the Spanish language in class.

“She was like no speaking Spanish,” explained eighth-grader Yedhany Gallegos. “I was like that’s my first language. She said, well you can get out.”

Gallegos and many of her classmates grew up speaking Spanish at home. She said speaking Spanish with her friends at school comes as second nature.

Some parents feel the district has yet to get to the root of the problem. “Why are you punishing our children like this?” asked mother Cynthia Zamora.

Zamora wants to know why the principal would make such an announcement in the first place.

Hempstead ISD spokeswoman Laurie Bettis released a written statement. It 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.”

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1. What announcement did a Texas middle school principal make over the intercom last month?

2. a) Why are Spanish-speaking students at Hempstead Middle School upset?
b) Why do you think one teacher told a student, “if you speak Spanish in my class, I’m going to write you up”?

3. How did the school district respond to parent complaints about the principal?

4. What percent of Hempstead Middle School students are Latino?

5. a) Why is the parent quoted in the article upset – how does she view the principal’s ban?
b) Do you think Mrs. Zamora’s concern is justified? Explain your answer.

6. A news report should answer the following questions in the first paragraph: who, what, where, when, and answer the why and/or how in the rest of the article.
List at least 3 important questions that were not answered in the article (that the reporter should have investigated and reported on to give readers a balanced news report).

7. Discuss the following questions:
-Should American public schools require students who are able to communicate in English to do so in class?
-Should American public schools allow students who speak other languages to speak them during class?
-Should students who can communicate in English be permitted to speak their native language in a classroom where half of the class and/or the teacher do not understand them?
-Should public schools try to accommodate students so they feel comfortable at all times?
-Do teachers have control over the classroom when they don’t know what the students are saying?
-Why might students who speak only English feel upset when their classmates are speaking Spanish to each other?
-Do students have the “right” to speak any language they want in class?
-Did the principal make this rule to discriminate against students who don’t speak English?
-If there were students in the school whose first languages were all different (e.g. four who spoke Chinese, five who spoke Arabic, ten who spoke Spanish and ten who spoke English) should they all be permitted to speak their own languages during class time?
-Is there a valid reason for requiring all students who are able to communicate in English to do so in class, even if it is not their first language?

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