Student Suspended for Requesting Instruction in English, Sues College

Fifty-year-old student Terri Bennett is suing Pima Community College (PCC) in Pima County, Arizona for allegedly labeling her a "bigot" and suspending her from school for asking if her nursing studies curriculum could be taught in English to make it easier to learn.

According Bennett's legal complaint, she started nursing classes at PCC in January 2013. During classroom hours, she and her fellow students were divided up into smaller groups, and she was "the only first-language English speaker" in her group. The other students in her group "spoke primarily in Spanish."

The students were asked to fill out class evaluations in March and were told their answers would remain anonymous. Thus, Bennett indicated on her evaluation she would prefer "there were no Spanish in the classroom." 

During another class, Bennett stated shortly after turning in her evaluation, Spanish was used so heavily in the classroom that she said she could not "concentrate." By April 3, Bennett claimed her learning environment was so challenging that she "followed PCC procedures and requested an interview with the Director of the Nursing Program." 

Bennett's complaint alleges that, after she told nursing director David Kutzler of her struggles, he accused her of "discriminating against Mexican-Americans" and of being a "bigot and a bitch."

The next day, April 4, Bennett was summoned to a broader meeting of PCC staff where she was allegedly told she was "discriminating" and that she would "not get a job" even if she finished her degree. Kutzler allegedly took part in this meeting as well, confronting Bennett with her "anonymous" class evaluation.

On April 15, Bennett was given a routine progress report in which she was accused of having "ineffective communication skills." On April 22, security personnel were waiting for her when she arrived at school; she was suspended and reportedly "instructed to leave campus immediately."

She was given a letter saying her suspension was based on charges that her "presence on College property [posed] a significant risk of disruption of educational activities" and that she "engaged in discriminatory conduct," among other charges.

Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins.


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