Let’s take a hypothetical: You are a nursing student. Much of your education entails collaborative classroom activities such as group discussions and lab work. These are conducted primarily in Spanish, a language you don’t happen to speak. What do you?
If your answer was anything besides nada, you fail. Terri Bennett, a nursing student at Pima Community College (PCC) in Arizona, found this out the hard way. When she complained to Director of the Nursing Program David Kutzler that her education was suffering because of this linguistic barrier, he allegedly called her a “bigot” and a “b**ch.” Soon afterward, he suspended her for good measure.
Timothy Dionisopoulos of Campus Reform reports that Bennett is now suing PPC:
In the lawsuit Bennett alleges that as a consequence of that meeting, she was approached by campus police and Kutzler on school grounds on April 22, and handed an envelope with a letter informing her she was being investigated for violating the student code of conduct.
A second letter informed her she was suspended, and invited her to a meeting with VP of student life Dr. Ann Parker, according to Bennett.
The school has denied Bennett’s allegations but refuses to go into detail. In a letter to Campus Reform, they wrote:
The College denies that any of Ms. Bennett’s legal rights were violated and denies that the lawsuit has any basis. [W]hen this type of concern arises, the College conducts a review and, when necessary, takes appropriate corrective action. We are confident the evidence will demonstrate that the College acted appropriately with respect to Ms. Bennett’s situation.
PCC furthermore has accused Bennett of going beyond merely asking that English to be spoken in the classroom. According to the suit, administrators charge Bennett with “disrupting class by arguing with the instructor over a test answer… complaining to several staff members about students speaking Spanish in and out of the classroom… and displaying intimidating behavior to students, staff and faculty.”
Bennett’s attorneys wrote in their brief:
PCC, amongst other things, failed to provide training and education to Ms. Bennett as promised, failed to provide an environment that was conducive to learning in the English language, and imposed disciplinary measures on Ms. Bennett that were not authorized by PCC’s policies.
Pro-English, a DC-area non-profit that advocates making English the official language in the U.S., has weighed on Bennett’s behalf. In a press release at the group’s website, Executive Director Bob Vandervoort wrote:
What happened to Terri Bennett is an outrage. For simply seeking a classroom environment where she can learn in English, Terri was harshly treated by the PCC administration, viciously insulted, and punished with a nine-month suspension.
This school should be known as ‘Politically Correct College. We look forward to bringing justice for Terri and making sure other students are allowed to learn in English.
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