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Opening Arguments

Idiotas en un desfile

Is this a legitimate civil rights issue or a case of accommodation and  inclusionism gone wild?

HEMPSTEAD - The Hempstead school board won't renew the contract of a principal who instructed her students not to speak Spanish, in a rapidly-evolving district where more than half of the students, like many Texas schools, are now Hispanic.

Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey was placed on paid administrative leave in December after reportedly announcing, via intercom, that students were not to speak Spanish on the school's campus. The Hispanic population of the rural area, roughly 50 miles northwest of Houston, is growing quickly, and Latino advocates say that it's important to allow Spanish in public schools.

"When you start banning aspects of ethnicity or cultural identity," says Augustin Pinedo, director of the League of United Latin American Citizens Region 18, "it sends the message that the child is not wanted: 'We don't want your color. We don't want your kind.' They then tend to drop out early."

I get the concerns of the Hispanic community, really I do. No one wants to feel excluded or unfairly singled out. But surely there is a legitimate argument or two in favor of making the school English-speaking only, and the story really didn't touch on them. It just assumed that such a policy would be discriminatory and went on from there. That's not what we would have called "balanced journalism" at Ball State.

For example, this is a structured learning environment, yes? All of the instruction takes place in English, yes? Wouldn't encouraging students to go back and forth on the language they speak encourage them to overly depend on Spanish, making learning more difficult? Of course, there are some different issues when we're talking not about the classroom but about kids speaking with their friends in the hallway. I can think of a reason or two to worry about that, too, but that would really alarm the diversity police.

So, to be clear: Telling kids not to speak Spanish in an English-language school is bad? But banning American-flag shirts during a school's Cinco de Mayo celbreation is cool? Got it.