9 On Your Side Education Watch
TUSD Board president: 'cult-like' testimony damaging to ethnic studies
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Tucson Unified School District Board President Mark Stegeman now admits he gave damaging testimony that could cost the district $15 million in funding for violating the state's law that bans Ethnic Studies. During day one of a three-part administrative hearing last Friday, Stegeman described student behavior as "cult-like."
At Monday's Democratic luncheon, party members introduced special guests with a single clap of the hands. It's a democratic value used by labor unions to signify solidarity.
But at the state hearing, Stegeman testified against students who performed the exact same ritual.
9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez asked Stegeman how his participation is any different.
"The clapping in not really the concern, that's not the issue," answered Stegeman.
Nuñez asked: "What is the issue then?"
"Well, I think the issue was what I described in my notes was a ritualized chanting that occurred in the class," replied Stegeman.
Stegeman tells 9 On Your Side state attorney's subpoenaed him because he visited an ethnic studies classroom. He said he had no other choice but to defend the notes he took while observing the class.
Meanwhile, Mexican-American Studies Director Sean Arce defended the program claiming six in ten students now pass the AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards), a state mandated test students must pass to graduate.
"You can not escape the Mexican-American experience in this country and not talk about social justice," Arce told the audience.
Arce denied ethnic studies teaches racism as opponents suggest it does. He said the program's style of instruction is inclusive to all students.
"One's life experiences and connecting it to the culturally relevant curriculum, the very pedagogy that we employ, has been effective," said Arce.
We asked Felicia May, who taught German for 22-years, if she's concerned about the text book, "Occupied America," that recites historical phrases such as "kill the gringo."
"I'm not supporting any kind of statement like that ever but I can not believe this is an overt point of these classes," said May.
Stegeman admits his testimony proved damaging to the district and the students he's supposed to represent.
"That was given under oath and it is what it is and its what I had to do," said Stegeman.
A recent audit found TUSD's ethnic studies program to be in compliance with the state law.
State Superintendent John Huppenthal commissioned the independent investigation but over ruled its findings. The school board then filed an administrative appeal to challenge Huppenthal's ruling.
The second of three scheduled hearings to determine the program's future will be held Tuesday, August 23rd.