Tensions Mount Over Hispanics

Victor Manuel Ramos, Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), Aug. 29

Hispanics who don’t speak English should be deported. They’re taking jobs from Americans. Their children are burdening our schools.

They should all get back on their boats and go back to wherever they came from.

Those are not the words of Jan P. Hall, the fifth-grade Sadler Elementary schoolteacher accused of belittling Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Haitians, Middle Easterners and others in a letter to members of Congress.

The comments come from Central Florida residents who have bombarded the Sentinel with several hundred calls, e-mails, letters and online postings since the Orange County School Board suspended Hall last week.

The letter became the latest flash point to divide Central Florida as demographic changes have created a vibrant Hispanic market whose visibility has taken many older residents by surprise. From the cultural to the political, the changes seem to be happening quickly.

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“If a person of color says bad things about white people, it is opinion,” noted one posting signed “Learn English” at an OrlandoSentinel.com bulletin board last week. “If a white person [says] something bad about a person of color it is ‘racism.’ We WHITE people are the MINORITY in Florida. Where are our groups to fight for OUR rights?”

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Diana Andrews, a 32-year-old office worker from Kissimmee, was among those who wrote to support the teacher. America should wake up, she stated, because tensions will escalate, and “we’ll end up having a war within this country.”

Andrews said she is not speaking out of hatred.

“I’ve noticed a lot of other cultures that talk down about Americans and can’t stand white people, but yet they are here working, taking jobs and getting a better life for themselves,” Andrews said. “I can’t get certain jobs because I am not bilingual. That’s discriminatory to me.”

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More on this story.

E-mail Jan Hall at [email protected].

E-mail Orange County school superintendent Ronald Blocker at [email protected].

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