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Principal Criticized For Delivering Graduation Speech In Spanish

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ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. (CBS13) – He congratulated the graduating class of 2011, but one principal’s commencement speech actually offended some in the crowd.

The graduating class at Whittell High School has only 30 students. Just a few weeks ago during graduation their principal gave an encouraging speech congratulating his students and their parents.

“Class of 2011, I want to congratulate you for all your accomplishments this year,” said Principal Crespin Esquivel.

He then said the same thing in Spanish, making sure his commencement speech could also be understood by his Spanish speaking parents and students who make up the second-largest group of the school.

“I figured why not do it in Spanish? I think it’s important for me to make sure all the families feel comfortable,” said Esquivel.

Maria: You never meant to offend anyone, correct?

Esquival: Absolutely not.

But it appears he did. One woman who sat through both speeches wrote a letter to the editor in a local newspaper saying Esquival “crossed the line”, “was inappropriate” and “took away from the recognition the students deserved.”

Discussion: Should California schools have commencement speeches in both Spanish as well as English?

“[I] wouldn’t be offended. We’re a melting pot,” said one person we spoke with.

“No, I put my daughter in a school where she learns both English and Spanish,” said another person.

The woman who complained about Esquival’s Spanish translation sparked a debate online similar to one that has gotten national attention.

Tim Howard, a player on the U.S. Soccer team, created controversy after Saturday’s loss to Mexico during the gold cup final. Howard bashed tournament officials for allowing the award ceremony to be done in Spanish.

“To me we live in America and that’s the beauty of America, that we all bring our backgrounds our cultures our languages and that’s what makes us who we are,” said Esquival.

In California, Hispanics make up about half of the students.

Esquival, in his first year as principal at Whittell, believes that if he’s got a tool to reach out to students and their parents, then why not use it?

“I’m doing what is right for all my families and I know I’ll take a hit for it, but it won’t stop me from doing what’s right for my families,” he said.

Esquival says he’ll probably do the same thing at next year’s commencement.

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