Prickish Behavior

PRICKISH BEHAVIOR….I wonder if anyone else had the same reaction to this story as me? It’s about Zach Rubio, a 16-year-old high school student in Kansas City who was chatting in Spanish with a friend at school:

“We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he’s like, ‘Me prestas un dolar?’ [‘Will you lend me a dollar?’] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I’m like, ‘No problema.’ ”

But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.

There’s no school policy against speaking Spanish in the hallways, but Watts suspended Rubio anyway. She sounds like a real piece of work.

On the other hand, here’s the rest of the story:

[Rubio’s father] then called the superintendent of the Turner Unified School District, which operates the school. The district immediately rescinded Zach’s suspension.

For Zach’s father, and for the Hispanic organizations that have expressed concern, the suspension is not a closed case. “Obviously they’ve violated his civil rights,” said Chuck Chionuma, a lawyer in Kansas City, Mo., who is representing the Rubio family. “We’re studying what form of legal redress will correct the situation.”

It’s true that there are potentially some larger issues at stake. As the Kansas City Kansan’s more detailed story makes clear, deliberate policy was at work here:

Zach and a friend were told not to speak Spanish in the lunch area on Monday. As he left to go to his class, he started speaking Spanish again to his friend and was told again not to speak Spanish on the way to class. About 45 minutes later, he was sent back to the office by his teacher for speaking Spanish to a classmate in a classroom. Zach was then told to call his father because he was suspended from school for the rest of the day and on Tuesday for non-compliance. A “reasonable” request to not speak Spanish at school, signed by Jennifer Watts, the principal of the school, was written on a disciplinary referral dated Monday.

In addition to the reason for suspension, Watts also wrote, “This is not the first time we have asked Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school.”

Sure, Watts sounds like a prick. Still, when Rubio’s father appealed to the district, his suspension was immediately rescinded and the policy was cleared up: speaking Spanish in the hallways is now officially OK. So maybe it’s time to declare victory and go home. Surely not every example of prickish behavior has to end up in court?