Lawmakers defend letter on alleged Latino student behavior

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - A letter written by a Glendale substitute teacher on the behavior of students and read on the Senate floor is causing some controversy.

State Senate President Russell Pearce said he will not apologize for a letter he circulated about Hispanic students and then read by a colleague on the Senate floor.

"I have found substitute teaching in these areas that most of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gangsters and gang members,” the letter said. “They hate America and want to reclaim this area for Mexico."

The letter was allegedly written by a substitute teacher named Tony Hill about his experience with eighth-graders at a school in Glendale.

Hispanic leaders in the Legislature called it hateful and inaccurate and said there's no place for it on the Senate floor.

In a statement, Pearce said, "I am shocked that members of the minority are so quick to defend the actions of these troublemakers, and mock the frustration many teachers feel.

"A teacher has a First Amendment right to express themselves, and we have an obligation to our citizens to keep them informed on what is happening in our schools."

The Glendale Elementary School District released a statement confirming that Hill was a substitute on March 8 for an eighth-grade reading, writing and social studies teacher at Harold W. Smith Elementary School.

Hill is not one of GESD's regular substitutes, but works for a substitute-teacher placement service.

The district said after speaking with students, the statements Hill made in his letter in regard to their students were not accurate.

The district plans to continue to investigate Hill's claims.