Teacher tells class ‘speak American,’ says troops aren’t fighting for ‘right to speak Spanish’

Posted at 7:58 PM, Oct 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-13 19:58:42-04

CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. — A 25-second video clip recorded inside a classroom at New Jersey's Cliffside Park High School has struck up a controversy on social media, according to WPIX.

“…men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American,” a teacher can be heard saying to her class.

Students in Cliffside Park, a diverse community with a large number of Spanish-speaking students, immediately reacted to the comment. At least one even walked out.

"You're being racist," that student can be heard saying on the video. "I know how to speak English."

On Facebook, some former alumni are calling for the board of education to investigate the "discriminatory" behavior and the "belittling" of a bilingual student.

Meanwhile, others are defending the teacher, who has been identified on social media, as a "great person" and a "wonderful teacher."

Some commenters said that English should be spoken in a class that is taught in English out of respect for the teacher.

Outside the high school on Friday, a student who was in the classroom said the teacher asked students whispering in Spanish to stop several times before making that comment.

"This school is not a negative school," said Carmen Benitez, a senior at Cliffside Park H.S. "You know there are a lot of different cultures in our school. There’s a lot of teachers who respect us."

But others called for the teacher's resignation.

"It's really disrespectful," said Alana Lopez, a freshman. "That's not right. You don't do that."

WPIX has reached out to the Cliffside Park School Superintendent for comment, but calls weren't immediately returned.

Students said the principal called an assembly Friday to discuss the incident. Some brought flags to school with them to represent their culture. Other students are planning a walk-out for Monday morning.

"You go to school to learn, you don't go to feel attacked by someone you believe is an educator," said Marvin Moreno, an alumni.

His younger sister still attends the school.

Students said those who walked out of the teacher's classroom in response to her comment were not reprimanded. The teacher in the video was substituting for a junior- and senior-level math class, but students say she teaches English at the high school.