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Posted on Monday, March 29, 2010

Joe Bernal

Joe BernalHispanic educators and students in Texas owe a lot to Joe Bernal. As a state Senator in 1969, Bernal authored the first Texas bilingual education act – despite strong opposition. “In every step of the way, there were people who tried to stop it,” Bernal once told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “You have to remember that in those days, it was a much different environment in Texas. You could be spanked or taken out of the classroom for speaking in Spanish.”

Before bilingual education became law, teachers were subject to sanctions if they helped  Hispanic students in their native Spanish. Some teachers were threatened with the loss of their teaching certificates. But Bernal and other pioneers changed that. Today, bilingual education is required in public schools where at least 20 students in each grade are not proficient in English.

 A former teacher, Bernal received his master’s degree in education from Our Lady of the Lake University in 1954. He became a social worker, an assistant school superintendent and served on the State Board of Education. He credits OLLU with support in his fight for bilingual education. ““Our Lady of the Lake was our friend and walked through those years with us,” he said. “And I appreciate it.”