In the mind of Amy Lacey, Principal of Hempstead Middle School, speaking in a language other than English — at anyplace and at anytime on campus — is akin to chewing gum or throwing spit balls. Banned! Outlawed! Forbidden! Verboten! Oops. Got carried away with that last one. One of the few German words that I know. Probably not welcome at the middle school in Hempstead, Texas, a rural area just north of Houston.
Well, maybe German would be okay. Spanish, according to Ms. Lacey, is right out:
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.
What’s next, no pig Latin or Yiddish? Oy vey! This action, described by some as racially motivated and by others, including yours truly, as just plain stupid, has gotten Principal Lacey fired. One does not need to view this as a racial incident — which it may or may not have been — to determine that the sheer stupidity of a Principal of a middle school with an ethnically diverse student-body (including a sizable number of Hispanic students) ordering/suggesting/asking that students not speak ANY Spanish, should, in and of itself, have been reason enough for the Hempstead School Board to decide not to renew Ms. Lacey’s contract. Which is exactly what they did.
Now, before some of my conservative readers get apoplectic, I believe that students in public schools in the United States should speak and learn in English (unless they are students in a foreign language class). Of course, there are some students new to America who will need to be integrated into an English-only system slowly. These students, whether their first language is Chinese, German, French, Russian or Spanish, should be afforded the opportunity to learn English as a Second language so that they can assimilate into the American culture. And, as much as I would like to learn Spanish as a second language to help me in my ministry in southern New Mexico and on my summer vacation at the beach in Mexico, I do believe that it is essential that all citizens of our nation learn and use a common language, that being English.
That being said, I can think of no good reason to mandate an “English-only” policy campus-wide at any school. Not only is such a rule impractical and unenforceable, but it borders on a violation of the First Amendment. Unless one believes that the First Amendment is only applicable in English, then how can a group of students at lunch or in the hallway or in the parking lot after school be prohibited from speaking in a language other than English? Are there exceptions for Anglo students who want to learn Spanish so that their Hispanic friends can teach them a few phrases during lunch? Must t-shirts (provided that they are allowed to be worn on campus) only be written in English?
The absurdity of such a rule is obvious. Assuming for the sake of argument that Principal Lacey was not motivated by racial animus in her decision to ban Spanish on the campus of Hempstead Middle School, I believe that the School Board had no other choice but to terminate Ms. Lacey’s contract when it expires at the end of the school year. What message does that send to the parents and students of the school district? That racial politics is alive and well in rural Texas? Perhaps. But, if nothing else, it sends a clear message to the citizens of Hempstead School District that stupidity will not be rewarded with taxpayer funding. And, that’s something that everyone can support, no matter what language they speak!