CHARLOTTE, N.C., Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A former North Carolina school secretary, fired for speaking Spanish in violation of the school's no-Spanish rule, has sued the school district, records show.
Ana Ligia Mateo, said she was hired in 2006 as a bilingual secretary for Devonshire Elementary School in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, in which almost 16 percent of the students are Latino, the Charlotte Observer reported Sunday.
Mateo's lawsuit, originally filed in a state court, has been moved to a federal venue, the Observer reported.
When Suzanne Gimenez took over as principal in 2008, she found Mateo speaking Spanish on several occasions to parents on the phone or in person, and warned her to stop, the Observer said.
"During September 2008, a Spanish-speaking parent came to the school crying and stating in Spanish that someone at the school had placed a stick in her 7-year-old son's buttocks. Mateo asked Ms. Gimenez if she could translate for the parent," the suit said. "Ms. Gimenez refused and told the parent her 7-year-old son could translate. The parent continued to cry and eventually left without having her issue resolved because she could not understand Ms. Gimenez's responses."
The complaint further alleges that after an encounter with another upset parent who could not speak English, Gimenez "screamed at (Mateo) that she could not speak Spanish to any parents."
Mateo she was told she must agree to the no-Spanish policy in writing to keep her job, and was told she would not be transferred to another school, the suit alleges.
Mateo was "effectively terminated" on Sept. 24, 2008, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, unable to resolve the issue through "conciliation," referred the case to the U.S. Justice Department, the newspaper said.