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An English teacher at Cliffside Park High School in New Jersey was recorded last week yelling at a three students to not speak Spanish. The English teacher was substituting for an Algebra class when she was reprimanded the three students for speaking to each other in Spanish.
One of those students was Vianery Cabrera, 16, a Junior at the high school. Vianery explains that she came to the United States three years ago from the Dominican Republic and that she was talking to two of her friends about the Yankees game in the language she felt comfortable speaking.
In the short SnapChat video, you can hear the teacher ranting to the three students saying, “Military men and women are fighting. They’re not fighting for right to speak Spanish. They’re fighting for your right to speak American.”
After the students heard the English teacher tell the girls to “speak American” we hear a male student saying, “I’m outta here!” That one student was soon joined by a few other students and next you hear, “BYE! BYE! BYE!” and you see the teacher’s arm shooing them away.
Vianery explains in an interview with NBC News, “We were speaking about the Yankees,” when the teacher went off. Vianery continued saying, “I laughed, because, first of all, that’s not a language. I have the right to speak Spanish. I have the right to speak English. I have the right to speak whatever language I speak, and that’s my right. There’s no law that says that I should or I must speak English.”
By Monday about 100 students staged a walk out in protest of the teacher’s actions and after they walked out, someone pulled a fire alarm that sent over 1,100 students outside too.
The school is about 28 percent Hispanic/Latino. In 2016, almost half of the student body was 49.7 percent speaking Spanish at home, 62 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino and 32 percent reportedly spoke English at home.
“She said if I wanted to speak Spanish to do it at my Spanish class Vianery said. “It hurts, because I came to this country to accomplish my dreams, and to hear that – it’s not fair.”
The students protesting were holding a variety of flags like Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic and Brazil.
The Superintendent Michael Romagnino is calling it a “personal matter” and he declined to elaborate as the school board had a session meeting.
“It’s a personal matter at this time. We’re taking this under consideration,” Romagnino told reporters. “The parents can be assured we’re addressing it.”
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