A teacher in New Jersey has provoked outrage and student protest after a viral video showed her telling pupils in her class to "speak American". Students told local media that the teacher had repeatedly reprimanded two students for speaking Spanish in her class before the start of the video, which was taken on 12 October.
In the video, the teacher can be heard saying "Military men and women are fighting. They're not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They're fighting for your right to speak American." At this, some students start to walk out of the classroom.
According to NBC New York, almost 100 students walked out of Cliffside Park High School in protest at the incident on 16 October. "School is supposed to be a save environment for children to learn, not a place where you feel attacked," one freshman student told the news station.
Reports said students were informed over loudspeaker that those leaving would face disciplinary action. Later, all 1,000 students at the high school walked out after someone pulled the fire alarm.
Two thirds of the school's population self-identify as people of colour, according to NBC New York, with almost half of the students saying they speak Spanish at home.
In a video posted on Twitter by reporter Chirstian Benavides, the student told to stop speaking Spanish said she first laughed because 'American' is not a language before adding: "I have the right to speak Spanish; I have the right to speak English; I have the right to speak whatever language I speak - and that's my right. There's no law in the United States that says I should or I must speak English."
The United States does not have an official language though the majority of the population speaks English, with Spanish the second most commonly spoken language. There are a number of natively spoken languages in the US belonging to indigenous groups including Navajo, Cherokee and Hawaiian.