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Charlotte, NC School Employee Fired for Speaking Spanish

Mi Gente, Patricia Ortiz Posted: Feb 12, 2010

NORTH CAROLINAA former employee of the Devonshire Elementary School sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, according to a report published by Mi Gente. Ana Ligia Mateo, a bilingual secretary, was laid off for using Spanish to communicate with parents of Hispanic students.

The director of the school, Suzanne Gimnez, had prohibited the use of Spanish, although 40 percent of the students are Hispanic. The Charlotte Observer published the news of the law suit. According to Mateos complaint, she was forced to resign in 2008 because she continued using Spanish. She introduced a formal claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming her rights had been violated. The complaint, transferred to a federal court, alleged that Gimnez had used racist remarks when addressing Mateo.

Mi Gente and Tremenda Radio 1310 AM had published previous complaints by Mateo and other parents in 2008. Some affirmed that the school required them to use an interpreter to talk to the director because of the Spanish-language prohibition.

An estimated 135,000 students are registered in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Of that total, 21,400 are Hispanic.


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