'Speak American': Students stage walkout over teacher remark
Oct. 20, 2017
CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. (AP) — Students at a high school in a heavily Hispanic district have staged a walkout to protest a teacher's comment that a Spanish-speaking student should instead "speak American."
Dozens of students walked out of Cliffside Park High School on Monday after a video clip surfaced in which a teacher admonished a student for not speaking English.
"Men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish," the teacher said in the video . "They are fighting for your right to speak American."
Some of the students told The Record they were disciplined for participating in the walkout and were given punishments ranging from detention to multiday suspensions.
"The administration thought I did that to insult them," said sophomore Sean Hughes, who said he's facing "a lot of disciplinary action" for the walkout. "I did that for my friends because they come from different ethnicities and I don't care if I'm white, I'm going to stand up with them."
School officials didn't respond to requests for comment.
Sophomore Filipp Vasconcellos received a Saturday detention.
"I feel like it was an attack on the First Amendment," he said. "It's just wrong that they decided to discipline us for standing up for what we believe in."
Another sophomore who was given detention, Waygner Vasquez, said he felt it was wrong to discipline students who protested, as many didn't leave school grounds.
In response to an open records request, the school district told the newspaper on Thursday that a freshman and a junior received suspensions this week. The reasons were not released.
The district superintendent said Wednesday that the Board of Education is investigating the teacher's comment and would make a decision about the teacher's status within the week.
Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com