Suspension for Using Spanish Draws Lawsuit

Robert A. Cronkleton, Kansas City Star, Dec. 13, 2005

The father of a Kansas City, Kan., student sued the Turner School District on Monday for suspending his son because the boy had been speaking Spanish in school.

Lorenzo E. Rubio filed the lawsuit on behalf of his son Zachariah Rubio in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. In it, Rubio claims that his son’s civil rights were violated when he was suspended in late November.

Rubio seeks an unspecified amount in actual and punitive damages. Among other things, he also seeks an order to prevent the school district and staff from discriminating against children on the basis of their race and national origin.

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“While the circumstances which led to this incident are unfortunate, the district acted quickly in accordance with its policies and procedures to reinstate the student within hours of the time the incident occurred,” Goheen said in the statement. “The district has further issued an apology to the student and his parents.”

Goheen said the district “takes great pride in the cultural diversity of its students, staff and community and does not prohibit students from speaking in any language other than English and has taken steps to ensure that incidents of this nature do not occur in the future.”

Rubio named as defendants the school district; Superintendent Bobby Allen; Endeavor Alternative School Principal Jennifer Watts; and Endeavor teacher Susan Serzyski and five other unnamed teachers.

Rubio also named as defendants the Turner school board.

Zachariah Rubio is a junior at Endeavor Alternative School, which the district described as a school for children who need time and attention that cannot be given in a regular high school setting.

He was suspended and sent home on Nov. 28 after speaking in Spanish at lunch and then again later in the day when talking with friends outside of class.

Watts suspended him for the following day, too. District officials said Watts told Rubio’s father that the suspension was for the boy’s speaking Spanish.

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