Suspended student claims anti-English bias

A Pima Community College nursing student claims the Tucson college suspended her for complaining that classmates spoke Spanish in class creating a disruptive and “hostile” learning environment. Terri Bennett, 50, charges the nursing program director called her a “bigot and a bitch.”

Bennett sued the college in Pima County Superior Court, alleging harassment, privacy violations, breach of contract, violations of the Arizona Constitution, retaliation, defamation, discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Pima instructors teach in English, but students translate the lessons into Spanish for non-English speakers, charges Bennett, who does not speak or understand Spanish. Her classmates spoke primarily in Spanish during labs, clinicals and other activities, her filing said.

“During (Introduction to Nursing), the talking, interruptions and distractions, all in Spanish, from her peers increased dramatically, to the point that it impede Ms. Bennett’s ability to concentrate, focus, listen to the lecture, and participate in group studies, clinicals, and other learning activities.

“On or about April 3, 2013, Ms. Bennett participated in an interaction between Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers in her class, in which the Spanish speakers were asked not to speak in Spanish in front of non-Spanish speakers. The Spanish-speaking group of students laughed and mocked Ms. Bennett and the other non-Spanish speakers.

Bennett complained to David Kutzler, director of the nursing program. She charges he accused her of “discriminating against Mexican-Americans” and threatened to “write [her] up for a violation of the code of conduct based on discrimination and harassment,” her complaint charges. “He accused Ms. Bennett of being a ‘bigot and a bitch,’ and warned her ‘[y]ou do not want to go down that road.'”

Several weeks later, Bennett was suspended on charges of discrimination and harassment and disrupting class by arguing with an instructor about a test answer.

Bennett claims her suspension violated the Arizona constitution, which establishes English as the state’s official language, and violates her free speech rights. “PCC took extreme disciplinary measures against Ms. Bennett because she expressed her opinion about English being spoken in PCC classrooms,” the complaint states.

Students complained that Bennett was harassing and intimidating them for having private conversations in Spanish, Kutzler told the Daily Caller.  He denies calling Bennett a “bigot and a bitch.”

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON July 23, 2013

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[…] Arizona nursing student claims she was suspended for complaining that classmates disrupted classes by speaking Spanish. In her lawsuit, Terri Bennett, 50, said classmates spoke Spanish during lessons — apparently […]

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