9OYS WTK: Did board member taunt Ethnic Studies students?
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – A Tucson Unified School District board member denied his actions egged-on Ethnic Studies students during Tuesday's board meeting.
For the second time in two weeks, the meeting spiraled out of control. This time when speakers refused to stop addressing the board after being ordered to do so, police waded in and began escorting them out of the room.
9 On Your Side was the only television camera to capture this part of the meeting as it began to unfold.
It started when Michael Hicks re-entered the board room after the meeting had adjourned.
That's when community activist Miguel Ortega began shouting at him. Hicks smiled at Ortega but then turned his attention to shouting students and began exchanging words with them.
9 On Your Side Wanted to know why an elected board member, who accuses adults for guiding the students' protests, would then turn around and get into a verbal match with them, especially at a time when the meeting was out of control.
KGUN9 News Reporter Steve Nuñez sat down with Hicks to show him the raw footage captured during the meeting.
Hicks also denies he re-entered the board room to taunt the students.
"No not at all," said Hicks. "If so, then there's no actions on their part for getting out of control."
Hicks claims he went back to get his belongings. Instead, he pointed blame at Ortega for inciting the students.
"Why are you smiling," asked Nuñez.
"Why am I smiling? Because they're indicating that I don't know where I'm from," answered Hicks.
The audio clearly supports his claim. But the footage clearly shows Hicks then turned his attention to students who were sitting up front. He said he was responding to adults who were shouting at him. Hicks claims their comments were derogatory.
"They were saying that I needed to go back to my foothills home," said Hicks.
"That's derogatory," asked Nuñez.
"To me that's a race thing," said Hicks.
"But did they mention race at all," asked Nuñez.
"No, but they inferred it," answered Hicks.
9 On Your Side also sat down with Ortega. He lost to Hicks during the last board election.
"I like Mike," said Ortega. "I don't agree with him politically."
However, Ortega admits he aimed his shouting at Hicks out of frustration. But he denies trying to incite another student take over as Hicks accused him of doing.
In the footage, Ortega could be heard shouting at Hicks, saying, "Welcome to Tucson. It doesn't belong to you. you would be on the wrong side of history."
"What was your intent," asked Nuñez.
"My intent was to say he was going to be held accountable for his vote," said Ortega. "And that he needs to consider how he votes. I take exception to the way the meetings were scheduled."
Hicks claims he supports TUSD's Ethnic Studies program but only as electives rather than classes that are part of the core curriculum.
We asked him if it's possible for a civil discussion to ever take place. He said, "Yes." But then went on to say the final decision may not include everything the students want.
"If you don't like the way that its done then you vote people off," said Hicks.
Hicks also said he believe the students actions in chaining themselves together have already given State Superintendent John Huppenthal all the ammunition he needs to support his stated political stance to end the program.
Ortega said that's exactly why students and adults want their voices heard so they can try to convince just one board member to change their vote.