Wichita's English-only school sued for discrimination

Dennis Baron debaron at illinois.edu
Sat May 24 20:43:48 UTC 2008

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Wichita's English-only school sued for discrimination

In the Fall of 2007, St. Anne Catholic School in Wichita, Kansas,  
instituted an English-only policy for students: no language except  
English in class, in the halls, at lunch, or on the playground.  Adam  
Silva, a sixth-grader whose native language is English, and who had  
attended St. Anne’s since kindergarten, refused to sign the required  
English-language loyalty oath because he wanted to speak Spanish  
sometimes too, so he was expelled (the school insists that Silva left  

Now Silva, his parents, and three other students and their families,  
are suing St. Anne’s in federal court for discrimination.  They seek  
an end to the foreign-language ban, along with Silva’s readmission,  
monetary damages, and court costs.

Supporting the students’ complaint against St. Anne’s are two letters  
that the school distributed about its English-only policy.  The  
principal announced that her ban on foreign languages came in response  
to a few students bullying their classmates in Spanish, and using  
Spanish to talk disrespectfully about teachers and staff.  But in an  
official letter to parents, English-only was re-framed as educational,  
not punitive: speaking only English on school grounds would strengthen  
students’ command of the language so that they could become more  

Students were asked to read and sign a second letter distributed in  
class which links the English-only rule, not to academic achievement,  
but to discipline issues like proper behavior during lunch and recess.  
The last paragraph of this letter notes that the Bishop of Wichita has  
approved the English-only policy and concludes with a warning to  
students to speak English and nothing else, or “consequences will  

... read the rest, including an excerpt from the famous "Babel  
Proclamation" of 1918, on the Web of Language


Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321


read the Web of Language:

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