Spanish-Speaking Kids Need a Permit to Play, Signs Say

These signs say one thing in English and something very different in Spanish.

Jan. 7, 2012 — -- In some Southern Delaware playgrounds, English-speaking children need parental supervision to play, while Spanish-speaking children need a permit and are "susceptible to police action" without one. At least that's the message that various Milford School district playground signs sent by displaying two very different statements in English and Spanish.

In English, the signs read, "Parental or guardian supervision is required for the use of this playground equipment. Play at your own risk." While the Spanish-language message (which has various grammar mistakes) roughly translates to, "You should have a permit to play in this field. Violators will be susceptible to police action."

The signs, discovered by Delaware talk-show host Dan Gaffney on Saturday, were removed on Sunday afternoon by Milford School District Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Kohel. Gaffney, who doesn't even speak Spanish, told the Wilmington News Journal that he sensed something was fishy about the placards, so he snapped a picture and posted it on his Facebook page. From there, the image went viral. When Kohel learned what the Spanish language caption meant, she told her husband to grab his toolbox and head over to the playgrounds where they were placed, to immediately to remove them.

Kohel also told the paper that she had no idea why the Spanish language message was different from that in English, and that the signs were installed about a year ago, before she was superintendent of the district.

Another image of signs in Southern Delaware posted on the Latino Rebels blog shows a third sign from a nearby field, in English, with roughly the same message as the Spanish-language sign: "You must have a permit to play on this field. Violators are subject to police action," it reads.

However the signs ended up on these elementary school playgrounds, they have certainly sparked lively conversations online, with some calling them an intentional equivalent of "Whites Only" placards. Others argue that their placement must have been an unfortunate mix-up by a non-Spanish speaker.

Kohel told the Wilmington News Journal that signs were installed by mistake.

"I certainly assume there was not an intent to discriminate," she said. "We have a great working relationship with all of the communities at the school, and there is absolutely an understanding that no ethnic group will be discriminated upon."