Talk at TUSD board meeting turns back to Ethnic Studies
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - For the past two weeks, the topic of Ethnic Studies has turned Tucson Unified School Board meetings into a free for all.
It began two weeks ago with student protesters chaining themselves to the chairs meant for board members. But those chains might have come in handy Tuesday night to keep the entire board in place, as division among its members had some taking a stand and some taking a hike away from the table.
In terms of actual protesting, Tuesday night's meeting was much calmer than the last two.
At the May 3rd meeting, board president Dr. Mark Stegeman drew criticism for cutting short the call to the audience and sparking a major disruption of the meeting. This week, Dr. Stegeman extended the call to the audience for a longer period of time, and drew criticism once again.
"I ask that it be put to a vote to the board. We have a very full agenda tonight," said board member Judy Burns. She walked out of the room when Stegeman said he would hear more people.
The first three speakers spoke out against Ethnic Studies, saying they've read the material.
"The books are not about history," said one speaker. "They are about political oppression, incessant deprecation of anything not Chicano, including the U.S. Constitution, capitalism, and anything European, or of European culture."
"I do not want to see the call for revolution brought to other schools, to other districts, to other parts of the country," another woman said.
The board agreed only to allow new speakers who had not been heard before on the topic of Ethnic Studies. But when Dr. Stegeman allowed others to speak, TUSD board member Adelita Grijalva stepped up and walked out, joining Judy Burns. Then Ethnic Studies supporters walked out or another reason.
"It just set off ignorance, you know, because why weren't the other people able to speak and why didn't they do it in order? Why did he group people together the way they did? It was just something he planned to do and it was just unacceptable," said Ethnic Studies supporter Myra Feliciano. She added that it seemed like Dr. Stegeman intentionally only let Ethnic Studies opponents speak at the meeting.
Ethnic Studies supporters said they were disappointed that for the third week in a row, they were not heard by the board, but La Raza Studies weren't even on Tuesday night's agenda in the first place. After the call to the public ended, Burns and Grijalva returned to the meeting and board members eventually voted to lay off 100 district employees.
TUSD board members said they would like to host a special meeting dedicated solely to Ethnic Studies where everyone on both sides would get to voice their opinions, but so far no such meeting has been scheduled. KGUN9 On Your Side learned that Superintendent John Pedicone is still working to set a date and location for that meeting.