Administrators at Kaplan College in Chula Vista apologized twice for the "English-only" edict, but the college eventually fired President Dennis Manzo.
A spokesman for the college told the Chronicle of Higher Education that the school and Manzo "agreed it would be best if parted ways."
According to an account in the San Diego Union-Tribune, student Jonathan Cedeno said a teacher warned him that a school policy prohibited students from speaking anything but English at the campus. He was allegedly told that speaking Spanish could affect his grades.
"I told her that it wasn't right, that she was violating my rights, that we could speak whatever we wanted," Cedeno told the newspaper.
His aunt, Letitica Maldonado, was outraged and confronted Manzo about the rule. "He wanted to make sure that students were held to the highest levels of professionalism and that having a side conversation in Spanish was unprofessional."
Maldonado happens to be an administrator at the University of California Santa Cruz, according to the Washington Post.
Ron Iori, senior vice president of communications at Kaplan Higher education, told the Union-Tribune that the school's policy "broadly paraphrased says classes are taught in English but does not expressly forbid Spanish on campus."
A coalition of Hispanic advocacy groups learned about the incident and fired off a letter to the college saying they found it "especially reprehensible" that students could have been penalized for speaking Spanish - something the college denies.
But other students say the incident was blown out of proportion.
"Something very small became very big," student Mayra Barajas told the Union-Tribune. She said the instructor simply told students that out of respect for others who don't speak the language, it would be better to speak English during class time.