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.
I think this was unnecessary of her. What is so great about the US is that it is a melting pot of cultures. That means a good portion of citizens have knowledge of another language and make practice of it. How sad that the sub couldn’t appreciate another culture.
— Briana Armendariz (@51Bri) November 22, 2019
Seriously..this has to stop..do they not know where they are going to sub..believe me I have experienced both here and in Mexico..I was called a pocha when I used to speak English at my Tias house. But I ignored it. I hope she is given her punishment. So uncalled for
— esmeralda venegas (@shortry) November 22, 2019
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.
This would’ve never happened if the student had obeyed the teacher in the first place. Obviously he was up to no good with using his cellphone in class.
Students nowadays have no respect for teachers and authority figures—-and this is the real story here.
— Fina (@finapacheco1) November 23, 2019
How does she know they weren’t cheating?
— Ken Prendergast (@prendergast_ken) November 22, 2019
“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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