Hempstead, Texas (CNN) — A Texas middle school is under fire after students say they were banned from speaking Spanish in class. The students say their principal announced the rule last month over the intercom, Drew Karedes reports.
Inside the walls of Hempstead Middle School, a language controversy is brewing.
Tiffani Resurez, 8th Grader, "There's one teacher that said, 'If you speak Spanish in my class, I'm gonna write you up.'"
These four students say their principal's announcement, banning them from speaking Spanish in class, has given teachers and fellow students a hall pass to discriminate Yedhany Gallegos, 8th Grader, "She was like, 'No speaking Spanish.' She told me like that. I was like, 'That's my first language.' She said, 'Well, you can get out."
A letter sent home by the Superintendent says, "Neither the district, or any campus, has any policy prohibiting the speaking of Spanish."
These students feel that has not been made entirely clear at their school, Kiara Lozano, 6th Grader, "People don't want to speak it no more and don't want to get caught speaking it because they're going to get in trouble."
Parents, like Cynthia Zamora, believe the school is not getting to the root of the problem. She wants to know why the "No Spanish" announcement was ever made in the first place, "I was very surprised that she would even go to that level."
Especially considering about 50 percent of the students that enrolled at the school are Hispanic, Tiffani Resurez, 8th Grader, "It's wrong for them to do that. It's wrong for them to tell us to not speak Spanish at our school."
These classmates grew up speaking Spanish at home and they say it often comes as second nature when they're talking to each other at school, Kiara Lozano
6th Grader, "I'm not scared. I'm gonna keep speaking my language. That's my first language, and I'm gonna keep on doing it."
The principal has been placed on paid administrative leave while the district investigates.
A spokeswoman for Hempstead ISD released a statement saying 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."