The third-grade Berwyn, Illinois teacher that punished her students for speaking Spanish in her classroom has now resigned. She reportedly forced students speaking Spanish to sit on the floor and away from other students.
According to WLS News, more than 80 percent of the students in the Berwyn South School District classified as Latino and when the story got out the community erupted with outrage.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) sent a letter to the school last week when parents contacted them about the incident. The letter outlines that the actions the teacher took are likely a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits any form of discrimination based on race, color and national origin in programs that receive federal funding.
“Teachers who insist upon acting out their prejudices in the classroom have no business being in any public school in America,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President in a statement. “We all owe a debt of gratitude to the parents who stepped forward to challenge this unlawful conduct.”
This apparently wasn’t the first time. Parents previously raised concerns about the teacher who had a pattern of singling out English-learners in her classroom. On Friday the school announced she had been moved to another classroom, but as of today, she is gone.
“We’re glad to see that district acted quickly and removed this teacher from the classroom,” MALDEF staff attorney Veronica Cortez said in a statement. “These students deserve a teacher that wants to be in the room with them and wants to help them achieve their potential.”
This isn’t the first time a student has been punished for speaking Spanish. A Kansas City student was suspended when a friend asked to borrow a dollar in Spanish and he replied, “No problema.” The principal sent the teen home for the rest of that day and the following day, claiming “This is not the first time we have [asked] Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school.”
There have been at least five cases in states like Texas, Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina and New Jersey where schools tried to ban Spanish. A Texas principal was fired in 2014 for prohibiting students from speaking Spanish in the majority-Hispanic school.
“When you start banning aspects of ethnicity or cultural identity, it sends the message that the child is not wanted,” Augstin Pinedo, director of the League of United Latin American Citizens told the Houston Chronicle about the 2014 incident. “‘We don’t want your color. We don’t want your kind.’ They tend to drop out early.”