New Jersey

#StopRacism: Students at New Jersey High School Walk Out Over Teacher's Controversial ‘Speak American' Video

Students said the teacher had repeatedly told two students to stop whispering to one another in Spanish

What to Know

  • A teacher at NJ's Cliffside Park High School was caught on camera telling Spanish-speaking students to "speak American"
  • The video, which has been viewed more than 9,000 times, shows students getting up from their desks and leaving the classroom in disgust
  • The school district has not commented on the video; students planned a walkout in protest during fourth period on Monday

Nearly 100 students walked out of a New Jersey high school Monday morning to protest a teacher seen telling Spanish-speaking students to "speak American" during class, despite the principal's warning that they would be disciplined. 

The students came out chanting "C.P. United" -- referring to their high school, Cliffside Park High School, as they walked out of fourth period Monday. An earlier walkout during second period saw only about two dozen students leave the school.

"I love this school to death but something like this is unacceptable," said sophomore Patrick Martinez. 

"She disrespected an entire community and we want an apology," student Janelle Andrickson said about the teacher. 

Sixty-seven percent of students at Cliffside Park High School self-identify as people of color, and more than 40 languages are spoken there. 

In the original video recorded by a student, the teacher at Cliffside Park High School can be heard saying, "Men and women are fighting, they’re not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They’re fighting for your right to speak American."

The video, which was posted on Snapchat and other social media networks and has been viewed more than 9,000 times, shows students getting up from their desks and leaving the classroom in apparent disgust.

"You’re being racist, I know how to speak English," said one student. "Goodbye. Goodbye."

The video does not show what happened before the exchange, but other students at the high school told News 4 that the teacher repeatedly told two students to stop whispering to one another in Spanish.

Students said the teacher -- whose name has not been revealed -- had previously confronted students for speaking Spanish during and in between classes.

"School is supposed to be a save environment for children to learn, not a place where you feel attacked," said freshman Herbert Rodriguez. 

"It wasn't fair what she said, and we need to fight for our rights," said Krissia Villareal. 

A post on Twitter indicated students planned a walkout during fourth period Monday, saying: "CPHS will be protesting for our rights to speak and represent any of our cultures. bring your country's flag, shirt, jersey or anything to represent where you're from. #stopracism."

Students say the Cliffside Park principal warned over the loudspeaker that anyone who walked out of school would be disciplined. Then, just after 11:30 a.m., someone pulled the fire alarm and 1,100 students walked out of the school 

Cliffside Park High School administrators have not commented on what disciplinary action students will face, but it was discussed at a Cliffside Park School Board meeting Monday night. 

Some parents came to school earlier Monday to find out for themselves. 

"I'm concerned about the kids," said Mario Valladares. "What's going to happen to the kids protesting? They have the right to do it as Latinos."  

The school district did not comment on the video, which was first reported by the Daily Voice. But students said the principal addressed the video in an assembly on Friday. Others online, meanwhile, defended the teacher as a good person and good teacher.

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