Several dozen students at Cliffside Park High School in New Jersey walked out of class Monday, Oct. 16, in response to a viral video showing an English teacher reprimanding students for speaking Spanish.
The 25-second clip, which surfaced on social media last Thursday, has sparked outrage among current students and alums in the Cliffside Park community, which has a large Latino population, according to NorthJersey.com.
“… Men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish,” the teacher is heard saying in the video. “They are fighting for your right to speak American.”
One student is seen leaving his seat and walking out of class at the end of the clip, after which two other students also leave.
Monday’s protest started with about 15 students outside the high school between third and fourth periods, as students began pouring out from the building in droves, PIX 11 reported. Some were seen waving flags out of the school windows and on the front lawn to represent their cultures/nationalities.
“We wanted to make a statement obviously and let it be known hopefully this is the last time it will ever happen,” junior Jasmeen Velesco told the local news station.
— Mike Curley, Jr. (@MWCurleyJr) October 16, 2017
Students said this isn’t the first time the teacher, who was substituting in an upper-level math class that day, has berated them for speaking a language other than English.
“She would usually be in the hallways and tell you not to speak Spanish,” freshman Omar Toledo said. “Which would be really messed up because we’re not in her class and we have the right to speak what we want to speak.”
Fellow student Vianery Cabrera, 16, who was in the classroom when the unnamed teacher snapped, agreed, pointing out that there’s no U.S. law requiring people to speak English. It should also be noted that the U.S. has no official designated language.
“I laughed, because, first of all, that’s not a language,” Vianery told NBC News of the moment the teacher told her and her friends to “speak American.”
“I have the right to speak Spanish. I have the right to speak English,” she added. “I have the right to speak whatever language I speak, and that’s my right. There’s no law that says that I should or I must speak English.”
Cliffside Park High alumni like Maria Reyes, a 2014 graduate, also expressed fear and outrage over the teacher’s comments and the fact that her sister now goes to the same school.
“This is a teacher in Cliffside Park High School; she isn’t allowing the student to express his constitutional right,” Reyes said in a Facebook comment. ” … I really do not want a teacher like this [for my sister].”
Monday’s student protest ended after about a half an hour when something triggered the fire alarm and the whole school was evacuated, PIX 11 reported. Most students returned to class afterward.
Cliffside Park Superintendent Michael Romagnino nor school principal Lawrence Pinto have returned our requests for comment on the matter.