CT education leaders discuss implementing the term 'Latine' as new law goes into effect
A law that directs state agencies to use the terms Latino, Latina and Latine in official documents and communication went into effect this month. The term Latine was proposed as a gender neutral option over Latinx, which some Spanish speakers said didn’t originate from within the Spanish speaking LGBTQ+ community.
Public school educators gathered this week to discuss how these changes could be applied in the education system.
The panelists, who were mainly school superintendents from various districts, said it is important for them to participate in conversations surrounding the new terminology to better represent their student communities.
Members from the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity and Opportunity (The Commision for All) and education leaders held the forum to explore how the law may influence state and public school culture.
“We have had these conversations with students and it's a variety of responses from our students,” said Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez. “Some of our students feel that they are Latino or Latina as a system and I'm very mindful to address our students' preferences — our students our staff — and our families' preferences.”
As the discussion continued, it some first-generation immigrant Hispanics said they were not familiar with the term "Latine" until they arrived in the United States. A study by Higher Ed Immigration Portal estimates there are 17,000 students who are first-generation immigrants enrolled in Connecticut higher education.
Alexandra Estrella, superintendent of the Norwalk Public Schools, said 70% of the students in her districts identify as Hispanic or Black.
“A lot of times they would prefer to use their country like, soy Mexicana, soy Mexicano, soy Colombiano,” Estrella said. “ I make sure that I don't push a label on them. I let them self-identify.”
With the Hispanic and Latino community growing rapidly in the United States, they are also bringing their unique culture and language with them. This has sparked debates and discussions about the use of language and its importance in education.
State Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, who introduced the bill to find an alternative to “Latinx,” said he wants people to acknowledge and respect the role the Spanish language has in Hispanic culture.
“Honestly most people are very, very confused with the term 'Latinx.' If you speak to our abuelas, tias, they don't even know what the word means because it never existed in their life. It's a new generational word, but I always keep coming back to the beauty of the Spanish language," which is centuries old, gender specific and inclusive, Reyes said.
Educators said that through conversation they can find ways to effectively incorporate the new terminology into the education system, and create a more inclusive and diverse learning environment for all students, regardless of their background.