Student says she was suspended from Arizona college for demanding students speak only English in classroom
A nursing student in Arizona filed a lawsuit this month alleging she was suspended from Pima Community College (PCC) for asking administrators to mandate that students speak only English in the classroom.
In the lawsuit, student Terri Bennett, says she complained to Director of the Nursing Program David Kutzler, that her education was suffering because collaborative classroom activities like group discussions and lab work were conducted primarily in Spanish.
According to Bennett, Kutzler dismissed her concerns and called her a “bigot” and a “bitch.”
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.
After meeting with Parker, Bennett says she received another letter from the school on April 29th, which stated she was suspended through the fall 2013 semester.
In a statement to Campus Reform, the school denied Bennett’s allegations but declined to go into detail.
“The College denies that any of Ms. Bennett’s legal rights were violated and denies that the lawsuit has any basis,” reads the statement. “[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.”
Although a spokesperson for Bennett was unable to provide Campus Reform with the letters from PCC administrators, the lawsuit, suggests that school accused Bennett of more than asking for English to be spoken in the classroom.
Administrators, according to the suit, charged 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.”
In a May 13, response included in the lawsuit, Parker appeared to defend her decision to suspend Bennett and claimed it was due to her personality.
“Terri was suspended until she receives counseling to improve her communication style and to learn to be less abrasive with students and instructors,” wrote Parker, according to the suit.
Arizona law firm Munger and Chadwick served the school with a complaint on July 8, and filed it in state court this past Monday seeking monetary damages on behalf of Bennett. The lawsuit disputes the charges against Bennett.
“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,” the lawsuit says.
Pro-English, a DC area non-profit which advocates for official English, helped Bennett file and fund the suit.
In a press release on the Pro-English website, Executive Director Bob Vandervoort slammed school administrator’s for their conduct.
“What happened to Terri Bennett is an outrage,” said Vandervoort. “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,” Vandervoort continued. “We look forward to bringing justice for Terri and making sure other students are allowed to learn in English.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @TimPDion