TUSD apologizes for student take over, changes meeting again
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Tucson Unified School District is apologizing to the community for a school board meeting that was shut down by angry student protestors on Tuesday.
KGUN9 News has also learned TUSD will hold a special meeting to consider a controversial Ethnic Studies proposal on Tuesday. And it will be held at 5:30pm at district headquarters.
The students admit their tactics to storm the board room and take it over was designed to stop the board from voting on a proposal by Dr. Mark Stegeman that would make most Ethnic Studies courses electives.
Currently students have a choice of taking U.S. history or Mexican-American Studies (MAS) to graduate.
Asiya Mir, a senior at Tucson High School, was one of the nine students who chained themselves together just before Tuesday's meeting.
"Do you believe you're advancing the democratic process or preventing it," asked Nine On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez.
"I feel like we are promoting and adding to the democratic process because we had tried to have discourse with our representatives and they haven't listened to us," responded Mir.
Mir is also a member of the activist group, called UNIDOS or United Non-Discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies.
We showed Mir and Angelica Peñaran a video clip of the protest. We asked if the adults taking part in the protest were really the one's steering the student demonstration.
"We had adults there from the community that were supporting our cause," said Peñaran. "But the entire process and organization was completely student organized."
Peñaran also denies UNIDOS is being funded by another activist group called, The Sound Strike. It's made up of a coalition of artists who are boycotting Arizona over SB1070.
"Uhm. I don't know who bought the chains," said Peñaran.
Meanwhile, 9 On Your Side got word of a heated debate taking place inside district headquarters between Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone, Board President Dr. Mark Stegeman and board member Judy Burns.
The three agenda committee members were discussing Stegeman's proposal to reschedule the meeting from next Thursday to next Tuesday.
In the end, Pedicone and Stegeman over-ruled Burns to change the meeting date and keep it at district headquarters.
Pedicone said he was concerned over security at Catalina High.
"If anyone tries to storm in and chain themselves to these chairs, will you order police to arrest them," asked Nuñez.
"The answer to that is absolutely," said Pedicone. "It's much about making sure that we do government the way it needs to be done. You can not impede the progress of governing boards to do what they're responsible to the community to do."
We asked Mir if UNIDOS plans to take over Tuesday's board meeting.
"I feel like, uhm, I don't want to do that," as she waved her hand to signal she did not want to answer the question.
Pedicone said security will be beefed up inside the board room, in the hallway and outside the building.
In addition, when the board room fills up, authorities will lock the doors and won't allow anybody else in.