TUSD Ethnic Studies critic claims program advocates smeared him
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - There's a new dispute in the battle over TUSD's ethnic studies program.
One of the program's main critics says claims about him are ruining his reputation, and he's taking the first steps to sue.
Students and their supporters have fought back hard against efforts to shut down TUSD's Ethnic Studies program.
Former teacher John Ward's account of his time teaching Ethnic Studies back in 2002 is a big part of former State School Superintendent Tom Horne's justification for going after the program.
In an interview last May, Ward told 9 On Your Side he had to watch a co-instructor teach material he found radical and wrong.
"It seemed to me that the intent of my co-instructor was to be a demagogue and get these students riled up, to be angry, and ultimately that anger I saw led to a certain sense of resentment against those in the 'dominant culture,'" he said.
That co-instructor was Sean Arce, who now heads the Hispanic Studies program. He defends the program as simply introducing challenging ideas students might not hear in regular classes, with no attempt to radicalize anyone.
Now Ward has filed a notice of claim against Arce, Curriculum Specialist Jose Gonzalez, and the TUSD Board in their role as their employers.
The notice is the first formal step towards filing a lawsuit.
Ward says Arce smeared him when he told a reporter Ward had a fit of temper in class, used profanity and slammed books around. In a claim letter, Ward says that story was a lie.
Ward is deferring comment to his attorney, who is unavailable.
Arce's attorney, Richard Martinez, says the story is truthful, truth is a defense, and Ward's claim is part of an agenda to destroy Ethnic Studies.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Martinez, "When you get down to the part of that claim letter that says, you can settle this for a half million dollars, what do you say?
"That's humorous. That's very humorous," he replied.
Martinez says he has no obligation to respond to the claim letter and that Ward has six months to decide if he'll file a full lawsuit.
His legal action comes as the state's new school superintendent considers a finding by previous superintendent Tom Horne that TUSD's Ethnic Studies violates state law and should be shut down.
Martinez, Arce, and others are suing to stop that effort.