LULAC calls on Socorro ISD, TEA to ban teacher who told student to 'speak English'

Molly Smith

El Paso Times

Nov 22, 2019

The nation's oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization is calling on the Texas Education Agency and the Socorro Independent School District to permanently ban a substitute teacher who was seen on video telling a Latino high school sophomore to "speak English."

"Teachers and all school staff are meant to be leaders and mentors to our children — not racists who harbor anti-immigrant sentiments," the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said in a statement Friday.

LULAC President Domingo Garcia became aware of the the incident after a student's Nov. 19 cellphone video showing a substitute teacher at Socorro High School telling a male student, "Speak English, we're in America," went viral. The teacher then tells the student to give her his phone, according to the video, which was first obtained by KFOX.

The video, however, does not show the minutes leading up to or after the teacher's statement.

The teacher first started substituting at SISD in August 2019, according to district spokesman Daniel Escobar, who said the district is investigating the incident in the video. The teacher is not teaching at SISD during the investigation, Escobar said.

Ninety-eight percent of Socorro High School students identify as Hispanic, according to data from the state education agency.

LULAC's president called on the Texas Education Agency to revoke the teacher's teaching certificate.

"Her behavior is inexcusable especially in a city like El Paso after the shootings at Walmart and the bigotry and the racism we've seen," Garcia said. "I personally was spanked for speaking Spanish in third grade (in 1968). I'm 61; I still remember. No one should be traumatized like that anymore."

Texas laws banned Spanish in public schools from 1918 to 1969, until the passage of the Texas Bilingual Act that allowed for bilingual education programs. During that time period, teachers enforced rules against speaking Spanish with humiliating corporal punishment.

"It is abominable that this institutionalized racism against the Hispanic community in Texas hasn’t ended," LULAC's statement read.