The principal of a middle school in Hempstead, Texas, was suspended with pay for telling students not to use Spanish in class.

School authorities received complaints about the matter, opened an investigation and decided to put Amy Lacey on leave pending the outcome of the probe, Laurie Bettis, a spokeswoman for the school district in Hempstead, a town some 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Houston, told Efe.

The incident that sparked the controversy occurred on Nov. 12 when Principal Lacey told students over the intercom that they were no longer to use Spanish while in class.

A group of students wrote a complaint to the school district and the superintendent responded two weeks later by saying that neither the school district nor any individual school forbids the use of Spanish, KHOU 11 News said.

It is estimated that more than half the school's roughly 300 students are of Hispanic origin.

Bettis, in the name of the school district, insisted on Hempstead's schools "embracing all students of all cultural and diverse backgrounds" and said she will do everything to make sure the incident does not affect the school's educational capacity.

Over the past decade, the percentage of first-generation Hispanic students in Texas has grown greatly and schools face the challenge of giving classes to a student body with great language differences. EFE