TUSD on image control after student protest cancels meeting
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Tucson Unified School District is on image control after hundreds of protesting students shut down a board meeting Tuesday night. The students stormed the room and chained themselves to board members' chairs to protest a controversial resolution they believe would kill their Ethnic Studies/Mexican-American Studies (MAS) Program.
The group, U.N.I.D.O.S. (United Non-Discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies), organized the boisterous demonstration.
Angelica Peñaran, a senior at Tucson High School, is claiming victory.
"Nobody was arrested, everything was peaceful," said Peñaran.
Peñaran claims the protest was designed to stop the board from voting on a proposal to offer Ethnic Studies as elective courses. TUSD Board Member, Dr. Mark Stegeman, drafted the idea.
Right now, the Ethnic Studies courses can be taken in place of U.S. History as a required course to graduate.
Peñaran believes Stegeman's resolution undermines the value of her history and culture as a Mexican-American.
"To say that we learned how to organize and how to protest in our classes is ignorant," said Peñaran.
"Would you call last night's demonstration radical," asked Nine On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez.
"I would call it revolutionary," responded Peñaran.
But it turns out police could have arrested the nine students who chained themselves together.
Judy Burns, President of the board, claims the district's attorney advised them to cancel the meeting and call for an emergency meeting to stop police from taking action.
"And frankly, I don't want to arrest students for speaking out about something they're passionate about," said Burns.
And while TUSD did not take disciplinary action against the students, Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone denounced their actions calling the situation, "unfortunate."
"The Tucson Unified School District once again looks like a district that's out of control," said Pedicone.
However, Pedicone points blame at the adults who participated in the demonstration. He said the students would be better served if they were taught to engage in critical and thoughtful discussion as the program proclaims it does.
"The heart of the Mexican-American studies program that I appreciate is about telling the truth," said Pedicone. "And so, the truth has got to come out and if you can't have a meeting to discuss what those issues are it defies the very foundation of what I believe is he very value of those courses,' said Pedicone.
Peñaran denies the adults are misguiding the students. She said the students reacted the way they did because, as a group, they believe Stegeman's proposal had majority support from the five member board.
"We're standing up for what's right and what we believe in," said Peñaran.
Part of the students ten point plan to revamp Ethnic Studies calls for expanding the program so that all students can learn about other cultures.
However, unlike Stegeman's resolution, the students do not want Raza Studies classes downgraded to electives.
TUSD rescheduled its meeting. It'll be held next Thursday, May 5th, at Catalina High School. The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m.