AP, May 21, 2008
Four Hispanic families are suing St. Anne’s Catholic School [Catholic Diocese of Wichita] over a policy that requires students to speak English at all times while at school.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, calls for an end to the policy and asks for an order barring similar policies at other diocese schools. It seeks the return of one student to the school who was allegedly kicked out for refusing to sign the “English only” pledge. And it asks for court costs and unspecified damages for discrimination and emotional suffering.
“Language is an essential characteristic of one’s national origin,” according to the complaint filed in the case. “The ban on Spanish at St. Anne’s created an atmosphere of intimidation, inferiority and isolation for Hispanic students.”
The diocese has said the school enacted the policy in response to four students who were using Spanish to bully others and to put down teachers and administrators.
The majority of the school’s 243 students are white. It has 75 Hispanic students, 27 Asian students and two who are black.
The parents claim in their lawsuit that since the school receives federal money for its free and reduced-price lunch program, it is subject to federal anti-discrimination laws. The district contends it is the students who receive the federal funding.
Lawyers for the Hispanic families contend bullying was not the initial reason the school enacted the policy, citing a letter the school sent saying that the more students are immersed in the English language the better their chance for improvement and success.