Debate Sparks Over Local Dual-Language Immersion Programs

Students walked out of a school in New Jersey Monday when a teacher ordered them to "Speak American."

It’s a tipping point in a debate also brewing locally in the county’s dual-language programs.

Parents told NBC 7 on Wednesday, they overwhelmingly support and appreciate having dual language immersion programs at every campus in the San Ysidro School District.

The small elementary school district sits on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the district is cutting back on the program, offering only one full dual immersion program after concerns were raised that kids weren’t speaking enough English.

"Men and women are fighting. They are not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American," a New Jersey teacher was caught on camera telling her students in a video that went viral.

The teacher's words sparked a 100-student "walk out" protest. The number of students out of the classroom Monday grew to 1,100 students after someone pulled a fire drill bell.

But closer to home, it was a debate that played out last Spring as a San Ysidro board member expressed frustration about students speaking "too much Spanish" on the playground.

Many educators and parents in the school district disagreed with the board member.

They argued that kids keeping their Spanish language skills, while also learning English would greatly help them in their future careers.

"Our administration is focused on making sure our English language learners become fluent in English and that’s our primary focus," said San Ysidro schools spokesman Francisco Mata. "We want to make sure we encourage the kids though to keep that Spanish because it will become an added skill when they hit the job market."

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