The actions of Hempstead Middle School principal, Amy Lacey, are under investigation after students allege that the administrator announced a ban on students speaking Spanish. Principal Lacey is currently on paid administrative leave while the district looks into the matter. The Texas students claim that the principal used the school’s public address system on November 12 to inform students that they were not to speak Spanish so that class disruptions could be avoided.
Many Hempstead residents speak Spanish and approximately fifty percent of the students at the middle school are Hispanic. "I understand they’re wanting these students to learn English. I understand that. We want our children to learn English,” said parent Cynthia Zamora to KPRC Local 2 adding, “It’s a process, it’s not something that’s going to happen from one day to the next." Ms. Zamora said that she was made aware of at least one student that was disciplined for speaking the supposedly banned language after the intercom announcement, however the district was not aware of that.
Tiffani Resurez a Hempstead eighth-grader told KHOU 11 News, “There’s this one teacher that she told us, ‘If you speak Spanish in my class, I’m going to write you up.’” Fellow eighth-grader Yedhany Gallegos had a similar experience with her teacher, “She was like, ‘No speaking Spanish.’…I was like, ‘Well, that’s my first language. She’s like, ‘Well you can get out.’”
This news reached David Hinojosa of the Mexican American Legal and Educational Fund (MALDEF) who feels that there could be legal action taken if the students’ claims are accurate. Hinojosa wrote a letter to the district on November 21 informing the administrators that "The anti-Spanish policy also invites potential challenges under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects 'pure speech' of prisoners, employees and, of course, students."
The district has denied banning students from speaking Spanish. As reported by KHOU, Delma Flores-Smith, Hempstead Independent School District (Hempstead ISD) Superintendent, sent a note home with students on December 2 noting, “Neither the district or any campus has any policy prohibiting the speaking of Spanish.” It’s a message that was echoed to KPRC by Laurie Bettis, Hempstead ISD spokesperson. Bettis says the district is investigating if there was some sort of misunderstanding and explained, "What I can tell you is that an announcement was made over the loud speaker. The content of that message is still under investigation."
A written statement released by Bettis read in part:
“The district is committed to efficiently and effectively resolving this matter with as little disruption to our students and their learning environment as possible.” - Laurie Bettis, Hempstead Independent School District spokesperson