A public high school English teacher making over $100,000 told a student last week to “speak American,” prompting a student walkout earlier today.
In a video shot presumably by a student in the back of the classroom, the teacher, identified in social media as a Ms. Amico, told her class:
“Men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American.”
Afterwards, one student can be seen getting up and leaving, and a second student responding to the teacher, “I speak Spanish, even when I know how to speak English.”
This incident could serve as anecdotal evidence of Trumpist “build that wall” racism, or nativist intolerance of certain ethnic groups. That’s until research into the town in question — the leafy suburb of Cliffside Park, NJ, literally right across the Hudson River from New York City — shows it’s a Democratic Party-dominated town.
Cliffside Park voters went for Hillary Clinton last year by nearly two to one, with these official 2016 general election results showing Hillary got 5,474 votes to Donald Trump’s 3,119. Furthermore, if political party registration is a proxy for township sentiments, the numbers are even more overwhelming: 5,449 voters were registered Democrats, outnumbering the 1,439 registered Republicans nearly four-to-one.
Then, it gets better. The teacher cannot conclusively be found, but we found someone by the same name, not in the town of Cliffside Park or even anywhere else in that county, but instead just two miles to the south in a neighboring town (North Bergen, which is even closer to liberal New York), where Clinton won by an even larger margin of nearly three-to-one. Public records list an employee in the Cliffside Park Board of Education named Laura Amico with a salary of $100,900. Other public records show that a woman with the same name, aged 49, lives in a cliff-front condo with a postcard-picture view of the New York City skyline just two miles to the south in the neighboring town of North Bergen.
And the 2016 presidential results in North Bergen? Hillary got over 15,944 votes; Trump got 5,244.
Around 11:30 a.m., a fire alarm was pulled and hundreds of students came outside the school accompanied by staff members. Some students in this heavily-Hispanic district enthusiastically waved flags symbolizing their heritage as cheers went up from crowds gathered outside. Alfano said he expected the board would release a public statement in the coming days.
Student walkouts are nothing new. However, this teacher’s comments fall into the trap set by elitist opinion leaders in the news media and several professions looking for evidence of lurking racism among select population sectors.
The problem with that trap is that the “speak American” teacher is not from the traditional or even desired “suspect groups.” She is:
- white (although it’s hard to accurately presume ethnicity merely from a surname)
- female (we assume)
- and a public school teacher (for the moment, at least)
Some bigger questions that are sure to be raised:
What are students doing with camera-equipped cell phones in public school classrooms?
What does “speak American!” say about the quality of public school — or any school — teachers?
And what else might schoolteachers and administrators be trying to hide?