The future of the Ethnic Studies program at TUSD
One TUSD board members says its his personal goal to begin community conversations this semester. Video by kgun9.comvideo
TUSD Governing Board Member Mark Stegeman
New questions have been raised as to whether Tucson schools were authorized to remove ethnic studies reading materials when the district shut down the Mexican American studies program.
Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- Is a new chapter soon to be written in the ethnic studies battle? Two months ago, TUSD removed seven books from Mexican American Studies classrooms because the program was in violation of state law. But now there's a question as to whether TUSD had to remove the books in the first place?
For the past week, we've been seeking an answer to that question, but it's been difficult to get a direct answer. Either -- Yes, they had to be removed or -- No, they didn't have to be removed.
What we have learned is that TUSD was on its own -- and now it's up to the district -- alone -- to decide the fate of those books and to tackle the details.
Critics have cried book ban . We showed TUSD board member Mark Stegeman the perspective of Mexican American Studies proponents who want the removed books back in the classrooms.
KGUN9's Valerie Cavazos asked Stegeman, "Do you see their perspective that it could be considered a book ban." Stegeman answered, "I can see their perspective, but when you have the books in the library, it's hard for me personally to see that as a ban."
Teachers and students have told KGUN9 that the 7 removed titles are valuable resource materials in the classrooms -- and their access to them is now restricted. Stegeman said, "Yes, I think that restricts their access, but that's because of the awkward situation with the state."
That awkward situation Stegeman is referring to is how the decision was made to remove the books. TUSD was under orders by the state to remove all materials from the Mexican American Studies curriculum. However, the state superintendent's spokesperson told us this week that it wasn't the books that were out of compliance -- the teachers were using them inappropriately.
Stegeman says TUSD and the Governing Board were not given explicit instructions from the state on how to come into compliance. "The state -- the superintendent -- said we did that because we didn't want to violate the concept of local control, more than necessary," said Stegeman.
So with no clear direction -- Stegeman said the district had to guess. "The staff had to do something quickly and the board told them to do something quickly. We didn't specify a resolution exactly what they should do and we left it to their judgment as to how they executed that implementation. I don't know if I would have done the same thing, but it's not my job to make that decision."
But he says it is the job of the governing board to make those long-term decisions on the reconstruction of the multi-cultural curriculum and that requires a community conversation.
"That's going to be difficult to do because it's so polarized," said Stegeman. "I'm sure we won't please everybody, but I'm optimistic that it will be possible to come up with something that many, many in the community will say is a reasonable -- not an optimal - but a reasonble solution. Stegeman says he can't speak for the entire governing board, but his personal goal is to start these conversations before the end of the semester.
Whether the seven removed books will return to the classrooms will, no doubt, be part of the discussions. Stegeman and TUSD spokesperson, Cara Rene, told KGUN9 that that the possibility exists that some -- or all of them -- can be returned after they go through a review process as they do with other books considered for curriculum.