Friday, December 9

Student Suspended for Speaking Spanish, No Written Policy

It seems to me there are two issues in this Spanish speaking student suspension case. First, the boy evidently speaks English fluently, so this is not an integration issue--he is speaking the language. I can't fault him for answering the other boy in the Spanish, when the question was asked in Spanish.

Second, I don't see a problem with setting a policy that says students should only speak English while in School. This would have NOTHING to do with discrimination or race, and everything to do with language education by immersion! Anyone who teaches language will tell you that immersion is absolutely necessary for full mastery of a new language. I personally would not punish this sort of infraction with such severity, but this by no means indicates racism.

But, in this case, there was no written policy. Big mistake.
Zach's father, Lorenzo Rubio, a native of Veracruz, Mexico, who has lived in Kansas City for a quarter-century...

"went to the principal and said, 'My son, he's not suspended for fighting, right? He's not suspended for disrespecting anyone. He's suspended for speaking Spanish in the hall?' So I asked her to show me the written policy about that. But they didn't have" one.
It did not have to be that way. Schools should have clear policies, respect diversity, but not back down from proper education and immersion for these students. I'm not one to call "racism" every time something happens, but what happened here is unfair and incorrect. No student should get suspended for unwritten rules, specially when it was such a natural, and normal thing to do--speak in Spanish.
A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.

Watts, whom students describe as a disciplinarian, said she can't discuss the case. But in a written "discipline referral" explaining her decision to suspend Zach for 1 1/2 days, she noted: "This is not the first time we have [asked] Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school."

Since then, the suspension of Zach Rubio has become the talk of the town in both English and Spanish newspapers and radio shows. The school district has officially rescinded his punishment and said that speaking a foreign language is not grounds for suspension. Meanwhile, the Rubio family has retained a lawyer, who says a civil rights lawsuit may be in the offing.