I received this email from a concerned school employee upset about a proposed new language policy. Such situations are becoming all too common. The name of the sender and of the school are changed to protect the employee's privacy:
Hello Prof. Baron.
My name is Carmen Santiago and I just read your article on PBS.org. It was enlightening and very interesting.
I am currently faced with a dilemma and was hoping for some input. First of all, let me start by saying that I am a proud second generation Puerto Rican; I consider myself Latina and am bi-lingual. My problem is I work at a school in Collar County Highlands, Illinois with mostly non-Spanish speaking people.
There is a kindergarten class that is all Spanish and a first grade bi-lingual class. Also throughout the school there are many Hispanic children who comfortably speak both languages. My job is to supervise the children during lunch and recess and I speak to them mostly in English, although sometimes they'll reply in Spanish.
At the end of my shift today the principal pulled myself and the other lunch supervisors to the side and proceeded to tell us that she was contemplating whether or not to disallow Spanish speaking during lunch and recess. The non-Spanish speaking ladies quickly chimed in and agreed. My silence said it all and the principal asked for my opinion.
I was seething. I told her that I was really bothered by that and that I do not think we have the right to tell those children that they can not speak in their native tongue. She said she understood my point and asked the other ladies what they thought.
One after another they talked about their fear (I think more insecurities) that they do not understand the children and "fear" that they might be saying inappropriate things in Spanish. I don't see why the kids should be punished because the other ladies can't understand them, that's their problem, not the children's.
I was very upset and saddened for the children, they were already being discriminated against and they're only in elementary school.
I felt I had to be an advocate for them and do some research to find out if the principal or district had the authority to do as aforementioned. Which led me to your article. I wasn't clear on whether or not it was legal. I know freedom of speak and Amendment IV I believe touch on it, but all of that legal jargon confuses me. I would appreciate your insight.
I would like to add that some of the 4th and 5th grade teachers, have understandably forbidden Spanish speaking during class.
Thank you for your valuable time,