Texas Middle School Principal Amy Lacey had her heart in the right place, and she had courage - but she was fighting against a tidal wave, a part of a much bigger problem:
The Hempstead school board won`t renew the contract of a principal who instructed her students not to speak Spanish, in a rapidly-evolving district where more than half of the students, like many Texas schools, are now Hispanic.
Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey was placed on paid administrative leave in December after reportedly announcing, via intercom, that students were not to speak Spanish on the school`s campus. The Hispanic population of the rural area, roughly 50 miles northwest of Houston, is growing quickly, and Latino advocates say that it`s important to allow Spanish in public schools.
I don`t know all the ins and outs of this case, and the article is certainly not telling us. Maybe Principal Lacey`s solution was not the best solution, but it may have been an act of desperation in a school overwhelmed by Spanish-speaking students. One solution may have been to have an English-only policy in the classroom, and let them speak what they want in their free time. Nowadays, though, even that could get you in trouble.
I know of a private school in Mexico which was so determined that its gradeschool students learn English that its rule was that the students had to speak English even on the playground.
Of course in this case, Hispanic Chauvinist Activists were out in full force:
"When you start banning aspects of ethnicity or cultural identity," says Augustin Pinedo, director of the League of United Latin American Citizens Region 18, "it sends the message that the child is not wanted: `We don`t want your color. We don`t want your kind.` They then tend to drop out early."
The LULAC organization used to promote assimilation by Hispanic immigrants. Those days are long gone.
Such fast growth is pervasive in Texas, says Steve Murdock, a professor at Rice University and director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas. Half of all Texas public-school students are now Hispanic, he notes. "When you look at issues related to education in Texas, to a great extent, you`re looking at the education of Hispanic children."
How long until Texas turns blue?
Similar growth patterns, he says, hold true for the rest of the United States: "It`s not just Texas."
The whole country is being Hispanicized. It`s not just Texas and it`s not just the Southwest.
Civil rights advocates say Lacey`s suspension may have set off a campaign to intimidate Hispanics, including the district`s superintendent, Delma Flores-Smith. They are calling for the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate possible civil rights violations. An FBI spokesman would not confirm an investigation.
Look at the harassing, bullying mentality - all because a school principal tried to get students speaking the national language of this country.
Flores-Smith reports that she`s seen strangers watching her house and taking photos. She says vandals have trashed her yard, and someone has rifled through her garbage. She is worried about her safety.
Last month, school employees found that vandals had damaged the brakes of three Hempstead Independent School District buses and had left behind the bedraggled remains of a dead cat.
So what connection do these things have with Principal Lacey`s school language policy? No clear connection whatsoever.
A bus with visibly severed brake lines didn`t leave the bus barn that morning. But two other buses, whose air-brake lines had been subtly nicked, carried children to school before the damage was discovered. Police investigated but didn`t identify any suspects.
So it`s irresponsible to link it to the school language policy.
"A lot of this sounds like Mississippi in the 1950s and `60s," Pinedo said during Monday night`s school board meeting, where the decision was made not to renew Lacey`s contract.
Oh yes, the old saw of linking immigration issues with "Mississippi in the 1950s and `60s." Haven`t we heard enough of that?
Pinedo acknowledged that there`s no hard evidence that the incidents are related or that they`re hate crimes.
Even this agitator admits it. Of course, it doesn`t stop his agitation.
"But when the lives of children are put in danger, that`s the bottom line," he said. "We don`t know what the reasons are. Rather than guess, we`re asking the FBI to step in."
He said LULAC and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund have asked the Department of Justice to investigate possible civil rights violations.
"The whole world is watching," said Tony Diaz, head of the Houston-based radio show Nuestra Palabra and founder of the advocacy group Librotraficantes. "Banning Spanish is a national issue."
Having English as our official language should be a national issue.
"We got a lot of calls about activity in Hempstead," said Cynthia Coles, who represented the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice. "We came to support this board, this superintendent."
They also note that there`s no evidence that speaking Spanish hampers learning English, and note that in most of the rest of the world, it`s common to speak two or more languages.
She`s bringing up other issues here, which are not directly relevant to the situation.
At the school district`s board meeting in January, Pinedo read a list of American Founding Fathers who spoke multiple languages. They included Benjamin Franklin (French) and Thomas Jefferson (French, Italian, Spanish and Latin).
Neither Franklin nor Jefferson, however, were pushing foreign languages to take the place of English in the Thirteen Colonies/independent United States.
...Lacey said the terms of her leave don`t allow her to comment.
So she can`t defend herself.
Outside the board meeting, Kloecker [a former school board member] said that the problem was Flores-Smith, not issues of culture or race.
"We`ve been a predominantly Hispanic district for several years now," she said. "But we never had a problem until she came." Flores-Smith started the job in August.
After the vote, Flores-Smith expressed satisfaction. "I`m hoping everything will die down now," she said. "We need to get back to peaceful living. And education."
Principal who told kids not to speak Spanish will lose job Lisa Gray, Houston Chronicle, March 18, 2014