5 Schools That Tried to Ban Speaking Spanish

Are you aware that the United States has no “official language”? It’s a fact that a lot of Americans don’t seem to realize, particularly educators who continue to push unconstitutional “English only” rules at schools.

While no one would argue against teaching English in schools, doing so at the exclusion of all other languages is where it becomes problematic, especially as the number of American public school children who speak another language at home grows. Forbidding students from socializing with peers in the language of their choosing amounts to discrimination. Schools should celebrate diversity and encourage multilingualism rather than inventing excuses to shut it down.

Here are five examples of schools that tried to “ban” Spanish on their premises before watching it backfire spectacularly:

1. Hempstead Middle School in Texas

Most recently, Prinicipal Amy Lacey told the entire school over the loudspeaker that students were no longer allowed to speak Spanish in an effort to “prevent disruptions.”

Whereas high schoolers may be more eagerly defiant of this nonsense, middle school kids – many of whom grew up speaking the language at home – were legitimately scared. “People don’t want to speak it no more, and they don’t want to get caught speaking it because they’re going to get in trouble,” said Kiara Lozano, a sixth-grader at the school.

After news of the ban spread, the district put the principal on paid leave so it could investigate. The superintendent has assured the media and concerned parents that no such policy exists in the school.


2. Esmeralda County in Arizona

In 2007, the local school board instituted a policy forbidding students from speaking Spanish on the buses. The rule was obviously targeted at a group of students who lived in a Spanish-speaking farming community miles away from the school.

Soon, the ACLU intervened, pointing out how the policy infringed on the students Constitutional rights. The Esmeralda County school board quickly rescinded their ban, instead trying a new system: students would be encouraged to practice English and study with a tutor for the first 45 minutes of the bus ride, then they were free to speak with each other in whatever language they chose for the second half of the trip.


3. Endeavor Alternative School in Kansas City

Though teenager Zach Rubio spoke English fluently, he did know Spanish from his immigrant father. Unfortunately, that knowledge put him in trouble at school. In response to a fellow student’s request for a favor, Rubio said, “No problema.” The simple response – which literally amounted to an extra vowel – was in violation of the school’s no Spanish rule and landed him a one and a half day suspension.

This 2005 incident sparked a controversy that ultimately prompted the school to revoke the punishment. However, the debate on whether English should be stressed in American schools continues.


4. Devonshire Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina

Hired to be a bilingual secretary to help communicate with the school’s sizeable Latino community, Ana Mateo was accustomed to translating for parents when other employees could not. However, when a new principal, Suzanne Gimenez, took over the school, she banned all Spanish from being spoken at the facilities – including for Mateo.

Though Mateo continued to relay vital information to parents in Spanish when necessary, Gimenez disciplined and ultimately fired her for breaking the policy. Making students speak English exclusively is one thing, but purposely shutting Spanish speaking parents out of the equation altogether is another.


5. Vineland High School North in New Jersey

Math teachers made their students sign “Classroom Protocol Contracts” which included a number of rules. One of the stipulations on the form read as follows: “This is an English speaking school and classroom – any other language other than English will not be tolerated.”

Again, the local ACLU chapter intervened: the Supreme Court has ruled that students don’t give up their constitutional rights by entering a school building, and as such, teachers could not expect them to sign away these rights. Representatives for the school district explained that this problem was isolated to a few classrooms and would not be permitted to continue.



Sue Jao
suzanne Jao3 years ago

THe more languages and cultures you learn, the easier you would get along with people and circumstance, and the broader to expand your vision.

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths4 years ago

the Welsh and English languages are to be treated on the basis of equality.' It was wrong that the parliament in London, England could dictate what we in Wales could or couldn't do. I remember reading of someone who went to court and refused to speak English. The case was adjourned until they brought in a translator. We also fought to have our own Welsh tv channels. The leader of the Welsh nationalist party threatened to go on hunger strike over this. A wonderful, intelligent, peaceful man Dr. Gwynfor Evans. I'm glad to say he won the fight and that horrible woman Prime minister Margaret Thatcher had to do a U turn. Now we have a Welsh national assembly in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and it's only a matter of time before we have a full Welsh government.

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths4 years ago

This reminds me of the' Welsh Not' in my country, Wales in the 18th and 19th century. Welsh children were forced to speak English in Schools. If any child was heard speaking their own language Welsh, a piece of wood or slate named the 'Welsh Not' was tied around their neck. This was passed on to the next child heard speaking Welsh, and at the end of the school day, whoever was wearing the Welsh Not was severely beaten. This happened when my father was in school. The result was that he lost most of his language, although he could still understand it. When my brother, sister and myself were born, the language of the home was English. When I moved from Wales to England to work for a few years, my workmates would ask me to speak Welsh. I was so ashamed that I couldn't speak my native language that when my own two daughters were old enough for school, I made sure that they attended a bilingual school to fetch our language back into the family. I went to intensive Welsh classes. Now my two grandsons use Welsh as their first language. Welsh people had to fight hard for equality of the both languages. We had demonstrations and non violent campaigns where we would daub paint on English road signs. Local councils were then allowed to provide many bilingual signs in Wales. It was however the Welsh Language Act 1993 which established that 'in the course of public business and the administration of justice, the Welsh and English languages are to be treated on the basis of e

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

some comments here are painfully ignorant...

Sheila M.
Sheila M4 years ago

Growing up in San Francisco California in the 1940's and 50's we were bilingulal Spanish/English and taught that when the Bear Flag Republic was founded it was bilingual because when we (THE US) fought a war to take California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas from Mexico they were all States of Mexico and all the people long the boarder towns were bilingual. In school we learned the treaty between California and Mexico statted the laungage of California was Spanish for ever! The boarders were to remain open so that families coud continue to visit and all of the people who were born in California when it was a state of Mexico were known as Californio's as well as all their decendents. They were the elite who had been given land grants from Mexico and Spain however over time as europeans began to take over the state and the wonderful history of the Californio's started to dissappear along with teaching all students from day one in Kindergarden in a builingual classroom. When I was a little girl this was a proud a wonderful history but by high school Spanish was considered unacceptable unless you took the class in school. Soon I was laughed at when I mentioned Spanish was the official laungage of California and that part of the history of the State dissappearesd like so much of world history in to the black hole that opens when the victors in a dispute or battle rewrite history to reflect thier view point. This happened so fast I was not prepared for it. This was the first time

Jennifer French
Taumilynn Nelson4 years ago

I agree it is fear that they could be talking about them it is also another shot at assimilation. If u want to learn spanish,French,German etc u can download a free app called "Duolingo"

Lin M
Lin M4 years ago

I think some of us could be worried they're talking behind us and that is the real problem. Americans are bossy folk. Even if in a foreign country, we expect English to be spoken. I think Spanish is a beautiful language even though I can not speak it.

Alfred Donovan
Past Member 4 years ago

During lessons at school it makes perfect sense to require students to talk in the language of the country where they are taught otherwise would the teacher be expected to teach in a dozen different languages ?..However when at home or with friends away from school they should talk to each other in their own ethnic tongue.

Viviane K.
Past Member 4 years ago

Are the students fluent in the English langue ?
If they lack skills in English, then when can they learn to master English well enough to never lag behind in school and lag behind in their education in the future ?
Can they go through the education system in America up to they finish college and use only Spanish?
If not, they need to learn better English.

Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do".
I feel that when in a classroom everyone should speak English. It's not fair to the students who can't understand what these kids are saying in Spanish. They can speak Spanish at lunch, recess, and at home, but in the classroom they should speak English. After-all, they want to be in this country, they should speak the language.