Students at a New Jersey high school walked out of class Monday morning in protest of a teacher who last week demanded that a student stop speaking Spanish and, instead, "speak American." According to NBC, roughly a dozen students at Cliffside Park High School were seen leaving the building just before 10 a.m.
The walkout comes in the wake of a 26-second video posted to numerous social media networks and YouTube last Thursday, in which a teacher at Cliffside Park invokes the military as she scolds a student for not speaking English. "Men and women are fighting," the teacher tells the student. "They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American."
In the video, another student can be heard replying "You're being racist...I know how to speak English."
17-year-old Yenniver Pinales told ABC she was the target of the teacher's "speak American" demand, and said after the events shown on the video she was kicked out of the class for challenging the teacher. Pinales stressed that the instructor's views are out of place in the classroom of Cliffside Park, which has a sizable Latinx population.
"The teacher should apologize," Pinales told ABC. "She didn't only offend me, she offended a whole community. I'm not asking her to lose her job. And if she doesn't feel comfortable working with people speaking a second language then she should go someplace else." Pinales told the network she has lived in the U.S. nearly a decade and is fully fluent in English.
Students who walked out of the classroom following the teacher's reprimand were not punished, and CPHS's principal led an assembly Friday to address the incident, during which some students displayed flags to represent their nationalities, PIX reports. Students told the network the woman in the video was an English teacher at the high school who was substituting a math class at the time.
"This is a teacher in Cliffside Park High School; she isn't allowing the student to express his constitutional right," Maria Reyes, a 2014 graduate of the school, wrote on Facebook. "Going to this school, and now my sister does, I really do not want a teacher like this."
A 2014 alumna named Nicole told The Record "As a Latina, that hit home to me...It's 2017. People should stop being close minded. It doesn't show a good image to the school. I don't want people seeing the video and people thinking that all the teachers are like that."