August 30, 2016

BERWYN, IL - A third-grade teacher who punished her students for speaking Spanish in her classroom has been reassigned just days after MALDEF contacted school officials about the incident.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) wrote to school officials on August 24, after receiving complaints from parents that a teacher at Emerson Elementary School banned English-learner students from speaking Spanish and later punished those who did so by requiring them to sit on the floor, away from their classmates.

In the letter to school officials, MALDEF warned that such actions are unlawful and a likely violation of Title VI of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

"Teachers who insist upon acting out their prejudices in the classroom have no business being in any public school in America," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "We all owe a debt of gratitude to the parents who stepped forward to challenge this unlawful conduct."

MALDEF noted that parents had previously raised concerns about the teacher, and questioned whether the teacher had a pattern and practice of mistreating English-learners who were assigned to her classroom. By late Friday, school officials announced the teacher had been moved from that classroom.

Emerson is located in the Berwyn South School District 100. More than 80 percent of the district's 3,900 students are Latino, according to the Illinois School Report website.

"We're glad to see that district acted quickly and removed this teacher from the classroom," said Veronica Cortez, a staff attorney with MALDEF. "These students deserve a teacher that wants to be in the room with them and wants to help them achieve their potential."

Read MALDEF’s letter HERE.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund