Target: Hempstead Middle School, TX Principal Amy Lacey
Goal: Allow children of all cultures to speak their native language when at school
Though America has no official language, public schools across the country are pushing “English-only” rules that ban students from speaking any language other than English on campus. The number of students who speak a language other than English at home is growing, making an “official” language in public schools problematic.
Educators should not be in control of what language students choose to use when playing or socializing outside of the classroom, during lunch or breaks. It is enriching for students to be exposed to different languages, and it creates a natural opportunity for students to learn from one another’s diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Certainly educators must be concerned about what students might say in their native language, whether it be bullying another student or putting down a teacher or administrator. However educators should also be educated in a diversity of languages, especially those in use in their community, and there are other, nonverbal cues to bullying that can be picked up and addressed. Most importantly, bullying can and should be addressed school-wide at assemblies.
Younger students, especially, feel threatened by the bans placed by some schools on the use of their native language. They feel afraid of being discriminated against or punished, a fear that can become deep-seated and irreversible in their adult life. This can lead to the extinction of cultural tradition, with our education system discouraging future generations from passing down languages.
In addition, some parents who speak their native language exclusively become banned from their child’s school as a side-effect of these policies. With no way to communicate, they are shunned from knowledge of their child’s behavior and performance. This not only negatively affects the parents, but the student also suffers from lack of support at home.
Policies that ban the use of languages other than English are unconstitutional, and are fought at the local and national level, however school administrators continue to take issue with the use of foreign languages in public schools. Demand that public school administrators allow students to use any language they choose during social time, encourage the enrichment of their students’ learning, and allow students to proudly carry on important family traditions.
Dear Principal Amy Lacey,
There is no official language in the United States, and restricting what language students use socially in public schools is unconstitutional. Not only is this against the law, but it also damages students in many ways.
It is enriching for students to be exposed to different languages during socialization with their peers, providing an opportunity to learn from one another. With many families speaking their native language at home, this is an important part of many students’ identities. Placing restrictions on the use of their native language may make them feel ashamed of their heritage, and this could cause future generations to fail to pass down their native language, an important part of their family’s history.
Many parents also speak only their native language, and such policies exclude these parents from being involved in their students’ education. This not only hurts the parents, but also the students, by keeping them from receiving educational support at home.
I’m sure there are concerns about bullying and other “disruptions” behind the creation of language-banning policies. However, these issues should be dealt with at the source, by holding school-wide anti-bullying assemblies, and classroom workshops that educate students on the harmful effects of bullying.
Please stop trying to keep students from expressing themselves socially in the way they see fit. Allow students to proudly use their native language for the benefit of their family heritage, and for the educational benefit of their fellow students, so we can all learn to understand and embrace one another’s differences.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko via Wikimedia