Editorial: Teacher in Lake County was unjustly punished

Since when did speaking Spanish become so problematic that might have prompted a public school teacher’s demotion?

The Orlando Sentinel reported that a Lake County teacher claimed she was demoted to a position with duties similar to a data-entry clerks after meeting with district officials over her supervisor’s “English only” policy — which bars school employees from speaking foreign languages on campus.

This policy, she said, was in effect even during lunch hours.

The state found that the district might have broken the law when it reassigned Patricia Hall, a Cuba native, three days after she met with officials about the policy.

Though the state can’t determine whether Hall faced harassment and discrimination for being Cuban or speaking Spanish, Hall’s attorney said she feels this case will bring forth other teachers and administrators who might have suffered a similar fate.

The state was unable to prove there was an actual English— only rule in place, but it recommend eddiversity training as employees are at least under the impression that speaking Spanish would be punishable.

What this situation brings into question, however, is not whether justice was served, but whether the whole thing should have ever been an issue.

Yes, English is the language most predominantly spoken in this country — by 82.1 percent, according to the 2000 U.S. Census — but it’s not an official language enforced by the federal government. If the federal government does not enforce it, it seems silly for a school district employee to be punished for speaking Spanish outside of the classroom.

Even a rule against speaking foreign languages on break time would be inconsistent with other public school practices that openly encourage foreign-language speaking, making any “it’s a silly rule, but it’s still a rule” argument weak.

Think of all the French clubs, Spanish clubs and Latin study sessions that go on in public schools every day, for example.

More importantly, it’s hard to make the argument that speaking Spanish — or any foreign language, for that matter — on a break could harm students, faculty or staff in any way.

It is understandable for the school district to prefer that Hall speak English during work hours, but on a lunch break, Hall should’ve been able to do as she pleased. Her behavior neither set a bad example nor was detrimental to those around her.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing, however, about the absurdity of an alleged English-only rule is that the state spent time and money to investigate it.