English-only lawsuit

Three Mexican-American families are suing a Wichita Catholic school that requires students to promise to speak English in school: “Lawyers for the families say it’s racial discrimination and therefore violates their civil rights.”

Apparently, St. Anne’s adopted the policy to stop students from using Spanish to insult classmates.

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  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    lawyers for the families say it’s racial discrimination and therefore violates their civil rights

    Since when is Spanish a race?

  2. Is it a public school? It doesn’t sound like it. If the family is *so* unhappy, they’re always welcome to take their business to public schools.

  3. Reality Czech says:

    It’s a private school. The First Amendment doesn’t apply to it.

    This suit should be summarily tossed for lack of a valid complaint.

  4. There are rules like this at my mother’s workplace too. I don’t see what the big idea is.

  5. R.C. above is 100% correct. They should lose. It is a private, Catholic institution. If this was a public school it’d be a different story.

  6. How the suit’s disposed of isn’t just a matter of the applicable law though. It’s also a matter of the legal talent involved as well as the depth of the pockets on both sides. And then there’s the judge.

    The story’s pretty thin but it doesn’t mention anything about monetary damages so the families are probably looking for an injunction and maybe costs.

    How much is it worth the diocese to prevent the families from enforcing their preferences on the school?

  7. Would they really have no case? They wouldn’t be asserting Constitutional arguments, certainly not First Amendment arguments as suggested, but state or federal antidiscrimination arguments. A public accommodation doesn’t have to be a state facility; a privately owned restaurant, hotel, or (presumably) school can violate antidiscrimination statutes. That was the whole purpose of the Civil Rights Act. You can’t have a private school that discriminates against people for their race or nationality; the question would be whether prohibiting the speaking of the students’ native language would qualify as such discrimination. And I believe that courts in the past have taken a dim view of schools prohibiting Native American languages being spoken by their students.

  8. Catch Thirty-Three says:

    The issue of this being a private school set aside for one second: I find this mind-blowing. When my mother entered public school as a native German speaker, no one coddled her. There were no bilingual programs for German immigrants. And even if my grandmother wanted to seek such a thing, the public schools of the time would have let her know that she was in the United States now, and that if she wanted her daughter to go to a German speaking institution, perhaps she should have never emigrated to the United States.

    Okay. That being said, the previous posters are correct, this is a private institution, and can (we hope!) set its own rules.

  9. One question, was the rule in effect when the children started at the school?

  10. Bill Leonard says:

    I’m not so sure that any of the above arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs apply. The plain fact is, you don’t have to send your kids to any private school.

    In public school they can — and I’ll bet they will, to their own ultimate disadvantage — speak Spanish to their heart’s content.


  11. O.H. is correct.

  12. Margo/Mom says:

    I am wondering if this school is the recipient of any state or federal $ for education. This might subject them to regulations.

    C33–this country did in fact have bilingual education programs for German immigrants, that is up until World War I. Then all things German became objects of suspicion. Locally parks and streets, originally named for German poets and philosophers, were re-named.

    Back in the 70’s I recall a program that was necessary to assist some of those non-coddled immigrants. In Cleveland there was a program called Senior Ethnic Find. In many ethnic neighborhoods there were elderly people who had never had much command of English. As younger generations moved out, they became very isolated. The aim of the project was to provide assistance and translation for such things as trips to the doctor, grocery store, etc. Not sure that the English-only policy worked real well for them.

  13. It takes a mountain of self-importance to file a lawsuit like this. Let’s say I emigrated to Finland and enrolled my kids in a private school, and then sued the school because it didn’t allow my kids to speak English. I can’t imagine it happening because my ego and sense of entitlement just aren’t big enough to do it. Besides, why would I want to hurt my daughters’ education? Whatever happened to shame?

  14. It appears that the intent is to make sure that those able to speak another language [piglatin, swahili, deutsch, finnish, esperanto, chinese, japanese, polish, hrvatski, greek, etc., or spanish.] can guarantee that those classmates that they are insulting will understand that they are being insulted when it’s in the English language. That should cut down on any misunderstandings.

    “The school says the policy was a response to problems in school environment, saying that if a student uses a language other than English to speak ill of others that it’s not fair.”

  15. Nels Nelson says:

    The school, being private, should be within its rights, and the parents shouldn’t be bringing a lawsuit, but the reason for the English-only policy is essentially that ignorant, uncreative people should be coddled. How hard is it read up on a few insults in Spanish? Why not learn (or make up) a third language and return the insults? I assume that speaking pig latin is banned as well.

  16. Catch Thirty-Three says:

    Margo, not when my mother and her family immigrated here. She was told to sink or swim when she hit public school. Yet for others, we coddle them and assure them that learning the vernacular of the United States is unnecessary. Why is that?

    You needn’t tell me of America’s attitudes towards German immigrants. Read the book “Over There” from 1980 to chart the drastic change in attitudes towards German immigrants in 1917. Also, in San Antonio a century ago, there were German newspapers in circulation.

  17. the news report I has seen gaves me the impression the kids were not native spanish speakers, the justification for the lawsuit was that the school received money for the school lunch program.