Saturday, January 20, 2007

LULAC Decries Suspension of High School Student for Speaking Spanish

Organization files compliant to U.S. Department of Education.

Washington, DC – The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) severely criticized today officials of the Endeavor Alternative School in Kansas City, Kan. for suspending high school junior Zach Rubio for speaking Spanish in the hallway of his school. Although the decision was rescinded by the school district, the action taken against Rubio was in blatant violation of his civil liberties and is a prime example of language discrimination.

The 1st Amendment guarantees to all citizens the right of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to ask for governmental reform. Barring someone from speaking Spanish infringes upon a person’s right to freedom of expression – both oral and written. Moreover, punishing someone for speaking a language other than English has been ruled by many courts as language discrimination and found to be the same as discrimination based on race or national origin.

LULAC is deeply concerned over the explanation of the school’s decision to suspend Rubio for 1 ½ days, noting that “this is not the first time we have [asked] Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school.” This official statement suggests there has been a consistent and unlawful pattern of language discrimination.

“This type of practice is often seen in the workplace, businesses or government services. It is alarming to learn that an educational institution has violated one of our country’s most fundamental rights,” said Brent Wilkes, executive director of LULAC. “Ms. Jennifer Watts and her staff acted in poor judgment by disregarding the laws of this country – a law that is taught in every 8th grade class room across the United States – and we are filing a complaint and requesting a full investigation from the Department of Education.”

LULAC National President Hector Flores has written a letter to James Manning, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, requesting an official investigation involving the infringement upon a U.S. citizen’s civil rights and to determine cyclic patterns of discrimination.

What happened in Kansas City is a microcosm of a broader national debate over language in America. LULAC’s position on language is for programs to embrace cultural and linguistic differences as they will serve to enrich the entire student body.

The League of the United Latin American Citizen ( advances the economic conditions, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 700 LULAC councils nationwide.


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