Teacher Suspended for Telling Mexican Student “Go Back to Mexico”


It is unbelievable that a Texas school teacher, one entrusted with supporting individual growth, would tell a Mexican student to “go back to Mexico.”  According to census records Hispanics in 2010,  (of any race) were 37.6% of the population of the state of Texas, while Non-Hispanic Whites composed 45.3%.  By her own admission, 63-year-old Shirley Bunn said she could not believe those words came out of her mouth.

In September, Bunn was distributing Title 1 forms to students in the classroom.  One student, speaking out of turn,  requested the forms in Spanish. Public records document Bunn that told the student he could retrieve the forms in Spanish from the main office. But he continued to repeat, and it may be safe to assume interrupt, saying that he was Mexican. Pending an investigation, Bunn was placed on administrative leave.

Jess Rickman, the independent examiner on the case, has since recommended that Bunn return to the classroom. His finding was that there was a “lack of intent for ‘Go back to Mexico ‘ to be [considered]  a racially or nationality-based pejorative remark.”  The Arlington Independent School District’s Board of Director Minutes from October 20, 2011 reflect the board considered  a recommendation to propose discharge of the contract of Shirley L. Bunn at that meeting.

One must ask on what basis has the examiner arrived at the above conclusion. Is it enough of an excuse, given the circumstances which are not disputed, that a teacher with 24 years of experience states it was simply a bad day?

During Bunn’s hearing, it came to light that this was not the only occasion where Bunn was said to speak disparingingly of Mexicans. In private conversation, she was heard to refer to a group of male Mexican students as Mexican Mafia. Again, the independent examiner had similar findings regarding Bunn’s intent.

People who make comments like this always say these comments are not meant to be racist and they do not believe themselves to be racist.  But what is racism if not this?  Where should the line be drawn?

On a deeper level, this speaks to the discomfort Americans feel in discussing race.  There is a problem when individuals such as the examiner cover up for bad behavior, which is what I think the independent examiner has done. Better to state that this is wrong. Even Bunn says she does not know where the words came from.  I personally do not think she should be fired, but I feel she should be reprimanded severely.

Interestingly, Title 1 of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 provides supplemental funds to school districts to help schools with the highest student concentrations of poverty to meet school educational goals. The law also allows school to use funds to acquire “highly qualified staff”(professionals, i.e. teachers, psychologists, social workers, etc.).

Should Mrs. Bunn have sensitivity classes or do you think she should find another job? No matter what, she must learn to watch her tongue.


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Photo from dherrera_96 via flickr


Allie Y.
Allison Y5 years ago

Easy on the judgment, folks. Most of us (including me) have no idea what things are like in southern Texas, especially for teachers. This teacher had a 24 year positive record? How do we overlook that, yet freak out at her saying something that most people here have probably thought (or said aloud- just weren't caught). Stop with the hypocrisy and have a little empathy, people.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe5 years ago

No, I won't sign this petition because I believe she is a good teacher and was simply 'having a bad day.' That kid would have gotten on my nerves too by repeating himself.
She told him he could get the form in the office. Even if she did not say it in Spanish, I am sure another student told him, so why did he have to repeat himself?

They should give her job back!! I'm sure she will watch her mouth from now on.

Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago

She has no right to be teaching in a class room. Petition to fire her signed!

David N.
David N5 years ago

Thank for the article.

Mackenzie K.
Mackenzie K.5 years ago

Of course it's Texas.

Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

Some amazingly un-CARE-ing comments here, folk.

Laura C.
Laura Cristancho5 years ago

I do not know why Asking for a form in Spanish is not considered racist also in a Country that mainly English is first language. Immigrants have to adapt in many ways to the new country and it does not mean they are going to change their roots. I support the teacher.
Laura C.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

Im not sure about this, because OVER ALL most of the hispanics here (if they are here illegally) complain about the way things are done here. If they want to have everything in spanish, perhaps they SHOULD be somewhere where spanish is the native language. I can't expect to go to a foreign country and have every single convenience in english at all times. I certainly cant expect to walk my children into a foreign school and expect all people there to speak fluent english for their convenience. Such is life

Anand YNI
Anand Y N I5 years ago

I totally agree with what Laura P & Sam T have written. Be a Roman while you are in Rome. Unfortunatley, people want to have the cake and eat it too! (and distribute it and waste it too!)

Laura P.
Laura P.5 years ago

This guy says it all what I feel. This isn't about racism, it's about speaking the language of the country you are living at.
Jim Canning · USMC Grunt University
Mr. Jerry McCullough,

Sir, I am writing in regards to the teacher you had suspended. Since when is it wrong to state the truth. The last time I checked, this was the United States of America, NOT the United States of Mexico. In the United States, we are Americans, We are not Canadians, we are not Mexicans, we are not anything else. We are Americans, it does not matter where our parents or grand parents came from, it only matters where we are now. If the student and his family are living and hopefully working here in this country and he is attending school here, then he is an American.

Why don’t you look over the requirements to be an American Citizen. To be an American Citizen, immigrants need to relinquish all and loyalties to their former country.

To have a “Green card” one must be here in this country legally and they must speak English.

If a student insist that he is Mexican and being disruptive about it, then apparently he is in this country illegally. Despite the fact that different immigration groups have tried to distort our constitution, illegals do not have the US civil rights afforded to American Citizens. They have the basic human rights, but they are NOT entitled to a free education paid for by American tax payers. They do not have the rights that American citizens ha