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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Two cases of Spanish being banned at New Mexico high school games were examples of a disturbing pattern that needs to be monitored and addressed, perhaps with lawsuits, a civil rights group said Monday.
The League of United Latin American Citizens has heard of a least five cases of high school players being ordered this school year not to speak Spanish during games and matches, according to Ralph Arellanes, the state director of LULAC.
“The New Mexico state constitution clearly protects Spanish and Native (American) languages so outlawing (them) in any way, we believe, is against the law and we’re not going to stand for it,” Arellanes said.
New Mexico Military Institute’s Jose Gonzales was penalized a point for speaking Spanish earlier this month after an on-court official warned him twice to speak only English during a state championship singles match.
Sally Marquez, executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association, the governing board for high school sports in the state, said the official was warned not to repeat that action, even though the official was within his right since the association was following the United States Tennis Association rule book during the finals.
In addition, an umpire accused of trying to ban New Mexico high school baseball players from speaking Spanish during a game resigned last month. The resignation came after Gadsden Independent School District officials filed a complaint with the association accusing the umpire of telling a first baseman not to speak Spanish during a game in Alamogordo.
A spokesman for the association did not immediately return an email and phone call seeking comment.
Arellanes said LULAC council members are reporting other alleged cases when high school players have been told not to speak Spanish, but parents in those cases assumed it was the norm and didn’t draw attention to the situations
“I mean, they want to remain focused on the game,” he said. “Regardless, it isn’t right. We’ll file lawsuits if we have to.”
Arellanes said umpires and officials might need to go through sensitivity training in the future.