‘Speak American!’ NJ teacher tells high school class with Latino students
CLIFFSIDE PARK — A video has surfaced of a Bergen County teacher telling her students to "speak American."
"Men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American," the teacher is heard on the video that has been circulating online.
Students told WPIX that the teacher's comment was prompted by some pupils who had been speaking to each other in Spanish in the classroom.
Some alumni of Cliffside Park High School said the teacher was being close-minded and inappropriate.
The high school has more than 1,100 students. Almost 700 are Hispanic.
"American" is not a language. The primary language spoken in the United States is American English.
The United States has no "official language" — and the American Civil Liberties Union believes that declaring one would violate the First Amendment right to free speech. Many states and local governments provide documents in multiple languages.
In Trenton, state Sens. Anthony R. Bucco, R-Morris, and Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, have introduced a bill that would simply declare English the official language of the state. Bucco has introduced the same measure in previous sessions of the Legislature but it has never come up for a vote in recent years.
In New Jersey, 2.67 million people speak a language other than English at home. About 1.4 million residents speak Spanish. Another 713,000 speak other Indo-European languages and 420,000 speak Asian or Pacific Island languages, according to 2016 American Community Survey estimates.
More than a quarter of Cliffside Park's residents older than 5 speak Spanish at home.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.