Students at a New Jersey high school walked out of class last week in protest of a teacher’s comment. NBC News reports that the teacher told Spanish-speaking students to “speak American.” A student captured the incident on a cell phone video, which has been viewed online thousands of times.
“Men and women are fighting,” the teacher said in the video. “They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American.”
This prompted about 100 students to walk out of Cliffside Park High School chanting “C.P. United.” According to NBC News, the principal warned that students would be punished, but they walked out anyway.
“She disrespected an entire community and we want an apology,” student Janelle Andrickson said in a statement to NBC News, referring to the teacher who made the comment.
The protest was announced via a Twitter post:
“CPHS will be protesting for our rights to speak and represent any of our cultures. bring your country’s flag, shirt, jersey or anything to represent where you’re from. #stopracism.”
NBC News reports that 67% of students at Cliffside Park High School identify as people of color and speak over 40 languages. Spanish, in particular, is the second most-spoken language in the world, with more than 387 million speakers. About 41 million of these Spanish-speakers live in the United States, and that number continues to grow.
According to the New York Post, school district officials have not yet commented on the incident or whether action will be taken against the teacher. Student council president Kleidon Ndreu said in a statement that the protest was not in line with the administration’s decision.
“Seeing as though the board has not given its decision on the situation at hand, I feel as though the protest is not necessarily something I would recommend,” student council president Kleidon Ndreu said. “I think we all need to take deep breaths.”