WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Removal of conflicting English/Spanish signs demonstrate power of radio, social media; but troubling that no one (apparently) noticed before!

Kudos to Delaware 105.9's Dan Gaffney for noticing the conflicting English/Spanish signs on a Milford elementary school playground, photographing them, and posting on his Facebook page.

(The story makes the front page of Monday's NEWS JOURNAL, complete with a rather large headline and big color photo beneath the masthead. We've got the same here on our websites.)

In case you hadn't followed this saga, two yellow playground signs were posted on the playgrounds of Lulu M. Ross and Mispillion elementary schools.

The sign in English merely stated: "Parental or Guardian supervision is required for the use of this playground equipment -- Play at your own risk".

The sign in Spanish contained much more intimidating language: "Ustedes debe tener un ermiso para jugar en este campo -- Violadores seran susceptibles a accion policia". In other words, you needed a permit, or permission, to use the playground; violators were subject to police action".

After Dan Gaffney's post received widespread attention in the blogosphere, Milford's new superintendent Dr. Phyllis Kohel took down the signs.

If you ever wanted to see a new millennial illustration of apartheid or "whites only", here it was.

Simply amazing that it took a year for someone to notice and take action...

Is it possible that no one passing those signs was sufficiently bilingual to notice the discrepancy? (If so, another sad commentary on life in these United States; one doubts this could ever happen in Canada or western Europe!)

Or if noticed, were people sufficiently intimidated not to raise a ruckus?

Unclear: Who authorized erecting these signs in the first place? Did someone just grab some signs from storage, not realizing the clear differences between the English and Spanish-language versions? Could someone have inadvertently copied signs posted at high school athletic fields, which DO warn about the need for permits? But then where did the milder, legalistic, English-language sign come from? Or was the discriminatory intent orchestrated from the beginning?

You can hear my interview with State Representative Joe Miro (R-Pike Creek), former co-chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission, about this story...

Audio Here

Posted at 6:48am on January 7, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 7:19am
This is what you get when you no longer require immigrants to learn the language of the country they wish to call their new home.

Mike from Delaware
Mon, Jan 7, 2013 8:12am
It would be interesting to find out, what percentage of Hispanic kids in the Milford area are legal vs. illegal. That too might have something to do with no one, who speaks Spanish, complaining. Who's the illegal going to go to for help, the police? What would be the police response, even to a legal Hispanic family's complaint? Maybe the Hispanic community in Milford has already had an apple out of that barrel and didn't enjoy the experience.

I hear the comment often that we should require Hispanics to learn English. My pastor tells a story about an area in New York State (where he was prior to coming to Delaware) where that church started an English class for Hispanics since there wasn't one available in that area. So before we start condemning these immigrants (legal or illegal) for not learning English, maybe we should first check to see if there is a Spanish-to-English class available for them to take.

In the case of the two different messages on the signs, maybe the person who wrote the Spanish sign wasn't that good in Spanish and made some mistakes. It may NOT have been racially motivated, it just may have been someone not knowing Spanish as a second language very well, but on the other hand, it could have been deliberate. Anything is possible, but we shouldn't immediately jump to the conclusion that is was racially motiviated though. Give the benefit of the doubt UNTIL the facts prove otherwise. Or this will simply become another politically-correct witchhunt.

However, new Spanish signs with the correct info need to be put in place.

Good eye by Dan Gaffney at WXDE Delaware 105.9

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 3:08pm
I've followed this story on a lot of blogs over the weekend, and everyone wants to comment on this type of story. Most of them are repetitive because most people don't read comments, then put one down exactly like the one before it. But the comments all hinge on disbelief.. and then vary: disbelief that prejudice was so rampant, disbelief that this is not a photoshop event and unreal, disbelief that someone made this type of mistake, disbelief that this silly mistake could be anything else BUT intentional....

All I'm worried about, is whether there are other schools which also need their signs removed... From what little I know of school districts' procurement systems, I would venture that there are good odds that there are....

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 3:53pm

Hey, I've got a great idea: Let's ALL OF US move to Mexico, then demand all the signs in Mexico get changed to English. If they cannot translate properly to English, we'll go on the local radio station to complain!

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 7:45pm
I think I pretty much agree with everybody here on this one. I think Mike's pastor's idea of the church making classes available is a great one, and perhaps organizations such as Salvation Army and Goodwill could get in on it. Also, good English teachers looking to start their own business could consider this as a cottage industry similar to Sylvan Learning Centers.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jan 8, 2013 10:25am
Mrpizza: Those are good ideas.

You definitely have that entrepreneur thing going, it never would have occurred to me to start a cottage industry teaching English as a second language. There might already be someone who's doing that.

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