Menominee Language Controversy
Shawano, WI – A Shawano family say they’re extremely upset by the way officials at Sacred Heart Catholic School treated their daughter. They say their 7th grader was unfairly benched from her basketball game two weeks ago, to punish her for using the Menominee language at school.
“It means I love you,” said 12-year old Miranda Washinawatok. She’s explaining the phrases she and two other girls were sharing in the Menominee language when she got into trouble with her teacher.
"She sort of threw her hands down on her desk and said don't be talking like that. How would you like it if I started talking Polish?" recalled Miranda.
And later that afternoon, Miranda's mother Tanaes was told her daughter would not be allowed to play in the January 19 game.
"It was unfair treatment I thought,” said Tanaes. “It could have been handled differently."
School officials told Tanaes that Miranda was disrespectful to her teachers, and that was the reason for the one-game suspension. But when Tanaes asked the administration who handed down the punishment, she couldn't get a straight answer.
NBC26 contacted the Sacred Heart Catholic School. They referred us to the Diocese of Green Bay. Their Director of Communications, Deacon Ray DuBois issued a statement saying the principal met with the Diocesan Assistant Superintendent of schools Tuesday to discuss the recent suspension. He added the principal is in the process of preparing a letter that will be sent to all parents and families explaining the situation of the athletic suspension. The letter will also include, “a positive action plan for future progress in the area of education and awareness of cultural diversity at Sacred Heart School.”
DuBois also added, “Diocesan policies do not prohibit the use of the Menominee language, nor any other non-English language, in our schools. In every classroom situation we expect our students to be responsive to the direction and supervision of the teacher. It is an issue of mutual respect and common courtesy. As a diocese, we respect and encourage embracing all cultures that make up the people whom we serve.”
But for Miranda, she said speaking the Menominee language is part of her culture. She was raised on the Menominee reservation until she was in the 4th grade.
Her mother said the school has a majority of Native American children attending, and they shouldn't be restricted with their languages.
"I'm not going to let anybody tell me they can't speak that language,” said Tanaes.
Miranda said what bothers her most is no one from school has apologized at this point, or explained the situation any further.
"No apologies at all yet,” she said as tears streamed down her face.
The Washinawatok said they will be waiting for the letter from the school.