CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. — Students staged a walkout on Monday after a cellphone video appeared to show a New Jersey high school English teacher reprimanding three students for speaking Spanish and telling them to speak “American.”
The teacher told the students that U.S. soldiers are “not fighting for your right to speak Spanish — they’re fighting for your right to speak American.” The video of the teacher’s comments was originally posted on Snapchat and obtained by NBC News.
One of those students was Vianery Cabrera, 16, a Junior who has attended Cliffside Park High School since she came to the United States from the Dominican Republic three years ago. Vianery said she was chatting with her friends when the teacher snapped.
“We were speaking about the Yankees,” she said, about the incident which took place last Thursday. The students were discussing the New York team and the baseball playoffs in Spanish, “because that’s how we feel more comfortable.”
The teacher, who usually teaches English but was substituting for an algebra class, wasn’t having it, and she began ranting and yelling about speaking English in the classroom, Vianery said.
“I laughed, because, first of all, that’s not a language,” Vianery told NBC News. “I have the right to speak Spanish. I have the right to speak English. I have the right to speak whatever language I speak, and that’s my right. There’s no law that says that I should or I must speak English.”