High Schoolers Protest After Teacher Tells Student To Speak 'American'

Doha Madani

New Jersey high school students on Monday decided to walk out in protest after a teacher last week insisted that a student speaking Spanish should instead “speak American.” 

Students at Cliffside Park High School in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, recorded a teacher on Thursday insisting that United States soldiers were not fighting for the right to speak a language other than English. Junior Vianery Cabrera, 16, told NBC Latino that she was discussing the New York Yankees in Spanish with a friend when the teacher snapped.  

“They’re not fighting for your right to speak Spanish,” the teacher says in the video. “They’re fighting for your right to speak American.”

In the video, the teacher kicked the students out and yelled that they were being “disrespectful” as they grabbed their belongings and left the classroom. After the video spread, more students became angered and about 100 students chose to walk out on Monday in protest.

The United States does not have an official language

Vianery moved to the U.S. three years ago from the Dominican Republic and is more comfortable speaking Spanish. The teacher insisted that if Vianery wanted to speak her language, she could do so in Spanish class. 

So Vianery was kicked out for not speaking “American.” 

“I laughed, because, first of all, that’s not a language,” Vianery told NBC Latino.  “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.”

A Snapchat video of the incident circulated on Monday, and students took a stand by walking out of school. About 100 students left on their own, and then a fire alarm was pulled forcing the entire school to evacuate, NBC Latino reported. 

On Monday evening, the Cliffside Park School District’s Board of Education held a special meeting in closed session, NorthJersey.com reported. The school’s principal previously threatened any students who chose to walk out with suspension, but Superintendent Michael Romagnino did not confirm whether students would be punished.  

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.