Principal Amy Lacey of Hempstead Middle School was fired for announcing over the intercom that students were not to speak Spanish on the school’s campus. The school, located just 50 miles northwest of Houston, Texas, is a fast growing Hispanic region, and Latino advocates insist that Spanish be allowed in public schools.
Lacey was placed on paid administrative leave in December when she had made the statement and has now been told the school district will not be renewing her contract. “When you start banning aspects of ethnicity or cultural identity,” says Augustin Pinedo, director of the League of United Latin American Citizens Region 18, “it sends the message that the child is not wanted: ‘We don’t want your color. We don’t want your kind.’ They then tend to drop out early.”
Steve Murdock, a professor at Rice University and director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, says that half of all students at Texas public schools are Hispanic. Moreover, he asserts that Hispanic population is fast growing and pervasive. This phenomenon has significantly changed the educational landscape. “When you look at issues related to education in Texas, to a great extent, you’re looking at the education of Hispanic children,” he notes. Murdock says this pattern holds true for the rest of America: “It’s not just Texas.”
Some are speculating that Lacey’s firing may have spurred some racial tension in the school district. The district’s superintendent, Delma Flores-Smith, who is Hispanic, claims that strangers have been stalking her home and taking photos. She reported that vandals are trashing her yard and sifting through her garbage. The superintendent stated that she is concerned about her safety.