Virginia teacher on leave after ‘English-only’ comment toward student

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 10:58 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT/Gray News) - A teacher at Thomas Boushall Middle School in Virginia is on leave following an incident where she allegedly told a student not to speak Spanish in her class and to speak English, WWBT reports.

“I just wanted no other Hispanic kid to go through the same thing that I did,” the student involved in the incident said after attending Monday night’s Richmond School Board meeting.

During the public commenting period, many spoke out against the incident at Boushall Middle School, where a student was allegedly discriminated against for speaking Spanish in her classroom by her teacher.

“I told one of my friends, ‘Oh, you don’t have friends,’ in Spanish because we joke around like that, and that teacher started yelling at me, telling me I couldn’t speak Spanish,” the student said.

A video of the incident has made its way around social media. In a transcript of the video, the teacher allegedly tells the student her mother can come to her classroom and said “I’ll speak English when I see her.”

The teacher later said the student’s mother would need to speak English too and said the student’s mom does not own the world.

The student replied that she didn’t say her mother owned the world.

The teacher told the student in the video, “It’s very ignorant of you to throw up your mom as if it’s going to change my rules in my class.”

The teacher told the student English is spoken in this class, period.

“She just kept saying that it just wasn’t allowed in here. In America, you speak English, and if I wanted to speak Spanish, then to go to wherever that Spanish-speaking country is,” the student said.

In the video, the teacher later told the student she said to the student before that she doesn’t speak Spanish, the school board is aware of that, and that’s why there are Spanish-speaking classes for the kids who need it.

After more back and forth between the student and teacher, the teacher allegedly told the student to “shut up” before telling the student to leave the classroom.

The student involved in the incident said she didn’t know what to tell her mom.

“I told her I was scared, and I didn’t know what to do because I was afraid that that teacher might come back,” the student said.

“Racism, bigotry, and intolerance of any kind will not be tolerated at Richmond Public Schools. The employee is currently on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation by the Employee Relations team. While we can not comment further on personnel matters, please know that RPS happily serves a diverse group of students across many races and nationalities. We will continue to support and advocate for them all,” Richmond Public Schools Chief Wellness Officer Renesha Parks said.

The mother of the student said she is still worried the teacher could come back.

“I just don’t trust to send my student to a school where a teacher is treating my daughter that way,” the mother said.

The student’s family was not the only one speaking out against this incident. Many speakers at Monday night’s meeting said this has been an ongoing problem for ESL students.