‘We’re in America’: Latin American group up in arms after Texas teacher tells student to ‘speak English’ in class

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A substitute teacher temping at a school in a Texas border town has come under fire for telling a Hispanic student to “speak English,” prompting a heated response from a civil rights group calling for the teacher’s dismissal.

A video of the incident posted online by a local news outlet on Thursday shows the teacher – then subbing at the predominantly Latino Socorro High School, located just a few miles from the border with Mexico – arguing with a student about his phone.

“Speak English, we’re in America. Give me your phone,” the teacher, who has not been named in press reports, is heard saying in the clip.

The student featured in the video, 11th grader Carlos Cobian, told a local news outlet that he entered the classroom watching a soccer match on his cellphone, noting that other students were also on their mobile devices at the time. Soon after arriving, he said the teacher approached him asking for his phone, to which he replied “Por que?” (“Why?”), prompting her controversial response. Cobian said that he believed the comment was racist.

“For her to come to teach at Socorro, being a sub, like 90 percent of the students here are Mexicans and Latinos,” he added.

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The incident was roundly condemned by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civil rights group which describes itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization.”

“It is abominable that this institutionalized racism against the Hispanic community in Texas hasn’t ended,” said Domingo Garcia, LULAC national president, in a press release calling for the woman’s outright expulsion from the teaching profession.

The group added that the teacher’s comment recalled a time when Texas legally barred the Spanish language in public schools, which was only overturned in 1969 by the Texas Bilingual Act.

On social media, the brief video clip has drawn mixed reactions. Some agreed with LULAC’s demand to punish the teacher for the remark.

Others were more sympathetic, however, arguing that the student should have obeyed the teacher’s request without issue, while others suggested he may have been using the foreign language to cheat under the sub’s nose.

“Let’s all remember all classes in the US are taught in English,” another Twitter user said, adding: “Technically, the substitute teacher is correct, but maybe not on the part of saying this is America.”

A spokesman for the Socorro Independent School District, Daniel Escobar, told Reuters the incident was under investigation.

“Appropriate action, per our employee code of conduct policies, will be taken,” Escobar said.

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