A middle school principal in the U.S. state of Texas was placed on leave after she forbade students from speaking Spanish in class, local broadcaster KHOU said Tuesday.
A Hempstead school district spokeswoman confirmed to KHOU on Tuesday that Amy Lacey, the principal of Hempstead Middle School, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation of her announcement on the school intercom.
Hempstead is a town about 80 km northwest of Texas's largest city Houston. More than 50 percent of the school's enrolment of about 330 students are Hispanic, according to the report.
Students said the principal told them over the intercom on Nov. 12 that they could no longer speak Spanish in school. The principal allegedly wanted to "prevent disruption" in class.
A number of students believed the principal's announcement gave some teachers and fellow classmates a free pass to discriminate against Hispanic students. Some parents have protested the school's handling of the controversy, saying the punishment to Lacey was too lenient.
Hempstead school district sent a letter to parents on Tuesday, assuring them that "neither the district nor any campus has any policy banning speaking Spanish." The letter says the district is committed to "embracing all students of all cultural and diverse backgrounds."
A similar language controversy occurred a few months ago when employees of U.S. supermarket chain Whole Foods said they were fired for violating a company policy prohibiting the speaking of Spanish at work. The policy sparked outrage from Latino groups nationwide. Civil rights groups reportedly filed complaints for discriminating against Spanish-speaking employees and the company later revised its rules.