Students Walk Out in Protest After Teacher Tells Spanish-Speakers to “Speak American”

Lead Photo: Cliffside Park High School. Photo by Jim Henderson, licensed under CC 1.0
Cliffside Park High School. Photo by Jim Henderson, licensed under CC 1.0
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Students at a New Jersey high school staged a walkout on Monday in protest of an English teacher who was caught on video demanding that Spanish-speaking students “speak American.”

In the video, which was captured by a student on Snapchat, the teacher – identified as Laura Amico – can be heard berating three students. “Military men and women are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish – they’re fighting for your right to speak American,” she tells them.

Vianery Cabrera, a sixteen year-old Junior at Cliffside Park who was among the students reprimanded, told NBC she and her friends were discussing the Yankees and the baseball playoffs in Spanish “because that’s how we feel more comfortable.” The teacher then began to scold them for not speaking English in the classroom, urging them to “speak American.”

Putting aside the fact that “American” is not even a language, and that someone tasked with teaching high schoolers English should ostensibly know this, the teacher’s comments went viral for their discriminatory tone. In interviews with 1010 WINS’ Samantha Liebman, several students alleged that this is not the first time Laura Amico has made racist or disparaging comments. “She finally got recorded and exposed. It makes a whole different situation,” one student said, according to CBS Local. “It’s not the first time it’s happened nor will it be the last time.”

According to local school board statistics, 49.7% of the students at Cliffside Park High school reported speaking Spanish at home last year, and 62% identified as Latino. After the footage of the teacher’s comments went viral, nearly 100 of these students risked disciplinary action to walk out of class on Monday, hoping to send a strong message about discrimination. Many waved flags from Latin American countries during the walkout.

The Cliffside Park School District has yet to comment on the incident.