Was a Native Student Suspended For Speaking Her Native Language? NO. Here’s Why.

Going around lately in my circles have been the story of Miranda Washinawatok, who was attempting to instruct a fellow student about how to speak “I love you” and “hello” in her native Menominee language. The teacher reprimanded her about using a non-English language.

The above facts appear to be true. The interpretation of these events as outrageous is the problem.

The story broke in February of 2012, not recently.

It didn’t make “the news” in your circles, because it’s only outrageous to people who do no research. You may have even actually heard about it 3 years ago when it would have been current, but don’t remember it because it was so ordinary. Kids get benched from a sporting event EVERY DAY. It’s extremely common. A referee for a sporting event can do it.

The punishment as stated by numerous sources (including the school) was for behavior over the course of the day, not stemming from a single incident, and especially not for using said language. While it is true that a teacher did reprimand her for using words in the student’s native language, and the reprimand was indeed an ugly-seeming way to express it (and apology letters were written expressing regret for poorly delivery of said reprimand) — the penalty itself was due to failing to meet standards for behavior having nothing to do with cultural differences. All of the sources I’ve found that declare the incident as an outrage seem to operate pivotally upon the false belief that the penalty was directly related to the language reprimand.

The “suspension” was actually only being benched for a single basketball game on that same day, in which she would have normally participated as a player. She wasn’t suspended. She was benched. For a SINGLE GAME. This is not outrageous. This is not a crime against diversity of culture, nor an atrocity committed against Natives, nor a situation in which a community would need to come together united against a common stereotype perpetuated by an unfeeling system. She was benched for one game, and then that was it.. for her behavior over the course of the day.

Conveniently omitted from any of the outraged articles is any defense whatsoever about the student’s behavior over the course of the day, as charged by the school for being the reason for being kept on the bench for the one game. The school did, in fact, issue a statement that the reprimand by the teacher was needlessly terse and the teacher who delivered it issued an apology for her own outburst. Perhaps the teacher should sit out a single class period also, to be fair.

Further, there is some super-hypocritical attitudes being taken on by the people rising up against the school. The facts remain that, while the reprimand was faulty, it was not the issue that lead to the sit-out of the one basketball game. The reprimand was delivered by a single teacher, but the reason the coach was told to bench the student was because of 2 teachers’ opinions of her behavior over the course of the day. Defend even for one second that the girl was not unruly over the course of a single day, and then you’ll have even the slightest bit of case.

The mother claims the student is “not a troublemaker.” That’s perfectly unhelpful, mom. The school isn’t asserting her identity as a troublemaker, they’re asserting that over the course of a SINGLE DAY (which could have entirely been an aberration in her typical life as a student) she behaved in a way that legitimized getting benched from a single basketball game. That is quite possibly the easiest penalty ever. Wooooo scary.

All of the spokes-people groups piping up about how the school should be doing this-and-that are essentially employing the identical method of penalization that they themselves simultaneously declare as outrageous. The groups are taking the action of a single incident not even related to the penalty, as rationale to make a big poorly-delivered reprimand for the school, in protest of poorly-delivered reprimands. Next perhaps they should hoist large signs on sticks in protest of picket lines, or shout at someone for shouting at them. They are declaring that teachers should be more aware of the diversity stereotypes (despite the school’s student population being 60% Native), all the while blatantly operating specifically upon the stereotype view of the teacher.

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