“Delano Regional Medical Center in Kern County defended its English-only policy as necessary for patient care.” Nonetheless, without admitting wrongdoing, it yielded to a complaint from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center that it had improperly penalized Filipino-American workers for communicating with each other in their own language. The suit had alleged, among other things, that the hospital had been more liberal in permitting the use of other languages other than English, and that it had not prevented workers from making fun of accents and expressing ethnically-based hostility. [L.A. Times, ABA Journal]
My new Cato post points out that while this may be craziness, it’s craziness with a long pedigree:
It was way back in the first Bush administration that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) began filing lawsuits against employers for “discriminating” against employees with difficult-to-understand or heavily accented speech, the theory being that this served as an improper proxy for discrimination based on national origin. The scope for allowable exceptions was exceedingly narrow, too narrow to cover most teaching positions, as I wrote quite a while back when the issue had just come over the horizon in a Massachusetts case. Indeed, the National Education Association (I pointed out) had been prevailed on to pass a resolution “decrying disparate treatment on the basis of ‘pronunciation’ — quite a switch from the old days when teachers used to be demons for correctness on that topic.”
Read the whole thing here (& Alkon, Peter Pappas/Tax Lawyer’s Blog, Bader). Another view: Josh Hanson.
A dismissed teacher’s case against the school system in Lowell is now before Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial Court. Phanna Rem Robishaw, a native of Cambodia originally hired to teach bilingual programs, had received favorable evaluations for years but received an unsatisfactory rating in English fluency after the state began requiring that teachers be tested on that skill. An arbitrator reinstated her but a state court judge reversed the reinstatement, terming her performance on an interview test tape “utterly incomprehensible”. Robishaw’s lawyer says the arbitrator excluded the tape from evidence and that the judge should not have considered it, and that the judge failed to observe the presumption against overturning arbitration results. “In 2002, Massachusetts’ voters passed Question 2, requiring all school superintendents to attest to the English fluency and literacy of their teachers where ‘the teacher’s fluency is not apparent through classroom observation and assessment or interview assessment.’” [Lowell Sun]
Readers with long memories will recall the 1990s controversy over a hard-to-understand foreign-born teacher in Westfield, Mass. which led Massachusetts voters to adopt Question 2; I wrote about it for Reason here. By coincidence, presumably, Robishaw attended Westfield State College.
“One of DHS’s apparent fears is that an infant isn’t safe in a home where the mother can articulate a 911 call solely in a language spoken only by some 50,000 Oaxacan Indians.” The Pascagoula, Miss. child protection authorities deny that Cirila Baltazar Cruz’s inability to speak English or Spanish played a major role in the decision to take her baby away from her. [Time magazine via Stossel]
“A federal judge ruled [last month] that a Wichita Catholic school policy requiring students to speak only English didn’t break any civil rights laws.” U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten still felt free to give St. Anne Catholic School a tongue-lashing over the alleged divisiveness of its policy, though he found it did not rise to the level of creating a “hostile educational environment”, which would apparently have triggered liability even in a private religious school setting. (Ron Sylvester, “School prevails in English-only lawsuit”, Wichita Eagle, Aug. 16, GoogleCached).