NJ Teacher Tells Students to ‘Speak American,’ but Who’s Gonna Tell Her That ‘American’ Isn’t a Language?

Students at Cliffside Park (N.J.) High School were extremely unhappy after a teacher told them to “speak American.” (Video screenshot via WPIX-TV)

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, 11:04 a.m. EDT: A Cliffside Park, N.J., teacher who came under fire after being recorded in class telling Spanish-speaking students to “speak American” has been allowed to return to the classroom after making a schoolwide apology.

According to the Associated Press, the English teacher, Laura Amico, who doesn’t seem to realize that “American” isn’t a language, returned to work on Tuesday after making an apology over the school’s public address system.


“Men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American,” Amico could be heard saying in the controversial video recorded in a classroom earlier this month.

Her remarks sparked outrage across the school, which boasts a large number of Spanish-speaking students.


A Cliffside Park, N.J., teacher is facing backlash after she was caught on cellphone camera telling students in her class to “speak American.”


I’m not sure what concerns me more. The fact that the teacher thought this was something that was OK to say in the first place, or the fact that an “educator” thinks “American” is a language.

You know that the language most Americans speak is actually English, right? I would hope that she would know this, since apparently she actually teaches English at Cliffside Park High School (although this incident occurred while the teacher was substituting in a junior- and senior-level math class).


According to WPIX-TV, a 25-second video clip taken from inside the classroom and shared across social media prompted a swift reaction as well as a rousing debate.

“[M]en and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American,” the unidentified teacher could be heard saying to students.


Immediately, disgruntled students in the classroom reacted to the problematic comment. One student is even seen on video picking up a bag and leaving the classroom. The news station notes that several students from Cliffside Park are Spanish-speaking and took offense.

“You’re being racist,” a student can be heard saying in the background. “I know how to speak English.”


“It’s really disrespectful,” Alana Lopez, a freshman at the school, told the news station. “That’s not right. You don’t do that.”

WPIX-TV notes that several alumni have been calling for the Board of Education to investigate the teacher’s behavior.


However, some defend the teacher whom they describe as a “great person.”

A student who was in the classroom says that the teacher had asked students to stop whispering in Spanish several times before making the inappropriate remark.


The principal of the school called an assembly Friday to discuss the incident, at which some of the students attended with flags representing their cultural backgrounds. Other students were planning a walkout for Monday morning.

“You go to school to learn; you don’t go to feel attacked by someone you believe is an educator,” Marvin Moreno, an alumni whose younger sister still attends the school, told the news station.


Read more at WPIX-TV.

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Breanna Edwards

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi