Last week, Arizona state Senator Lori Klein (R) read a letter on immigration on the state Senate floor as the legislature considered a bill that would have required public schools to verify immigration status. The letter was written by a substitute teacher who complained about an “invasion” of Latino students in his class who didn’t want to say the pledge of allegiance and would rather join gangs than go to school:
I have found that substitute teaching in these areas most of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters. They hate America and are determined to reclaim this area for Mexico. If we are able to remove the illegals out of our schools, the class sizes would be reduced and the students who wanted to learn would have a better chance to do so and become productive citizens.
I applaud and support your efforts to stop this invasion into our state and country. When the citizens of a country are forced to speak the invaders language, adopt their customs, and forced to support them, are we not a conquer nation? I do not want to see our state and nation turned into a third world country. Thank you for standing up to this invasion.
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Initially, the name of the letter’s author was not released. However, when people started to question whether the letter was doctored, the man’s name was released. Tony Hill claims that “an unusually disheartening day” at Glendale middle-school motivated him to write a letter to state Senate President Russell Pearce (R). He reportedly stands by his statements but regrets sending the letter because of the media attention it has attracted.
However, Hill’s colleagues don’t agree. David Hume, spokesman for the Pendergast Elementary School District, told a local news station that the observations in Hill’s letter “do not represent any typical educational environment in Pendergast schools. The remarks do not warrant any legitimate response.” Danielle Airey of Peoria Unified School District similarly stated, “The type of behavior described in this letter is not typical of our 8th grade classrooms. What you would expect to find as typical in our schools are classrooms where teachers are focused on instruction and students are engaged in learning. We would expect any of our teachers, including substitute teachers, to handle inappropriate behavior through our discipline process or by bringing it to the attention of the principal.”
Whether the behavior described in the letter is “typical” or not, there is certainly reason to question whether it’s true at all. “Some people can’t handle the truth,” proclaimed Pearce as he was defending the letter. An editorial in the Arizona Republic replies, “More to the point: Some people can’t take time to find out the truth before passing along unfounded accusations.”
Meanwhile, actual statistics paint a different picture of young Latinos. Although “a persistent educational attainment gap remains between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites,” nine in 10 Latinos say it’s “necessary” to get a college education to get ahead in life — more than any other ethnic group. However, language barriers, parental involvement, and a sense of responsibility to helping support their families has created a “divide between aspirations and reality.”
Ultimately, a testimony by a teacher who worries about a Latino invasion says a lot more about the biases of the instructor himself than it says about any of his students.