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Reaction: Passion, tension rule meeting as TUSD kills Ethnic Studies
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Supporters of TUSD's ethnic studies program turned out in large numbers at Tuesday night's district board meeting
. They spoke passionately, defending the Mexican-American studies program during the public comment period. But once it was time to decide the fate of the controversial program, the mood of the crowd turned and tensions flared.
Some called the meeting a last stand to support ethnic studies. Supporters organized, lined up early and filled the board room. About 140 were inside while around 150 more stood outside.
During public comment, the supporters took to the microphone, giving passionate testimony in front of the board.
“We have the right to culture, history, identity, language and education,” one young woman said. “We want an educational system where all cultures fit. Unidos we stand or divided we fall.” The crowd applauded.
“What's needed from you is the will and the strength to appeal,” one woman said. “Once that decision is made, funds for the legal fight will come. To help, I commit to organize a committee to seek those donations for legal appeal. I'm confident we can do that.”
The passion spread outside, where the crowd cheered as supporters listened to the meeting over loudspeakers.
“You can appeal this decision, this racist decision, this ignorant decision that was made by the state,” another woman said during public comment. “Do the right thing. Stand up for something the way I was taught--that if I don't stand for something, I'm going to fall for anything. That's what you should have to do. That's what you need to do.”
The passion turned to tension and outbursts as board member Miguel Cuevas spoke. He voted to end the program. As he explained his position, he was repeatedly interrupted and shouted down by individuals in the audience. Persons said to the board things like “You're a coward” and “You’re disgusting.” Board chair Dr. Mark Stegeman repeatedly asked the audience to be quiet and ultimately called for a recess when people would not.
When the decision to end the program was reached and the meeting adjourned, the crowd moved outside, chanting, "What do we do? Fight back!"
No one spoke in opposition to the program during the public comment period and every speaker who wanted to was able to. No arrests were made.