Latino Student Told to ‘Speak English’ at El Paso High School


In the past year, the community of El Paso, Texas, has become the epitome of resilience and strength. In the wake of the mass shooting at their local Walmart, the border town and its people have been through a lot. So, you would think that people would be respectful of the predominately Mexican culture that inhabits El Paso. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

A substitute teacher scolded a Latino student at Soccorro High School in El Paso for using his cell phone in class and for speaking Spanish. The incident occurred this week and was caught on video taken by other students. According to the student, Carlos Cobian, a junior student, began using his phone in class because other students were. The class rule on cell phones is that students can use them when they are given permission.

Cobian began watching a soccer game, but then his white teacher told him to hand over his phone. Cobian responded by saying, “por qué?” which means “why?” The teacher then told him to “speak English. We’re in America.” The students in class responded to that statement with “ooohhs.”

Cobian said he was confused as to why the teacher asked him for his cell phone and not the other students, and he naturally responded in Spanish. He said he was then surprised that his teacher would express such a discriminatory comment to him, primarily because they live in El Paso.

“I was shocked, and then I got a little mad,” Cobian said in an interview with a local news affiliate. “I thought it was a little racist because you know we live on the border … For her to come to teach at Socorro, being a sub, like 90 percent of the students here are Mexicans and Latinos.”

The teacher then claimed that Cobian pushed her, but the students showed the contrary with their video footage. The school is investigating the incident.

Appropriate action per our employee code of conduct policies will be taken,” Daniel Escobar, the chief communications director of the Socorro Independent School District, said to NBC News.

While we are not surprised by another “speak English” incident, as we have seen plenty of them throughout this post-Trump election era, we are surprised that it happened in El Paso. Why would anyone think that English is mandatory in El Paso, where the majority of the community is Latinx? Furthermore, Spanish is everywhere in El Paso. The city’s Spanish name says it all. The school’s name is Spanish too! We understand that each school has its policy on cell phones, but telling a student to “speak English” after they simply asked “por qué” is appalling. If a kid is disrespectful, sure they deserve to be reprimanded, but telling them to “speak English” is just wrong.

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