On November 12, 2013, Amy Lacey, the principal of Texas’ Hempstead Middle School, was placed on administrative leave and subsequently fired when she made a simple request to students: speak English.
Now that the gag order has expired, Lacey is speaking out about what happened that day, dispelling rumors that she banned Spanish from the school’s campus.
“I informed students it would be best to speak English in the classrooms to the extent possible, in order to help prepare them for [state] tests,” she wrote in a letter to the Houston Chronicle explaining her side of the story. “It is important to note that I did not ban the use of Spanish anywhere in the school or at any time, even though teachers had reported to me that they had experienced instances in which students had been asked to stop talking during instruction, and they responded that it was their right to speak Spanish — ignoring the fact that they shouldn’t have been speaking [in any language] during class without permission. The perception of the teachers was that students were being disrespectful and disrupting learning, and they believed they could get away with it by claiming racism.”
By telling students to speak English, Lacey was not being racist, she was merely pointing out that the academic language in Texas is, by law, English.
“Even so, I did not suggest that there would be any adverse consequences for any student speaking Spanish at any time. I merely encouraged students to speak English in classrooms by advising them that it would be to their advantage to do so especially with regard to state testing,” she continued. “English language immersion is an accepted best-practice teaching strategy, and Hempstead ISD board policy provides for its practice.”
She ended the letter thanking those who supported her “even when true facts were never given to the media” because she and others were not allowed to publicly defend her position.
“I think the public needs to know that in public education there are only one or two district personnel designated to talk to media,” she wrote in closing, “so any teachers that would have liked to speak on my behalf were not allowed without risking their job status.”