Ethnic studies supporters block resolution to reinstate "banned" books
TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - Months ago Mexican-American studies supporters bitterly denounced what they called a "book ban." On Tuesday they protested a proposal to reverse it. As a result, the Tucson Unified School District will not be putting the remaining Mexican-American Studies books back into classrooms.
On Tuesday night the district board failed to support a proposal from board member Mark Stegeman to return the books to classrooms. The district staff had removed the books after the board voted to dismantle the MAS program in January.
Stegman's proposal to return to the books drew heavy criticism from board member Adelita Grijalva, who has been a staunch supporter of the MAS program. She called Stegman's idea "the height of hypocrisy."
MAS supporters turned the board meeting into a block party, protesting in the dozens. Some even came dressed in costume, including, in some cases, Fidel Castro style military garb. Their dissatisfaction was clear during public comment.
"Bring balanced education back to Arizona school," said one Tubac resident who drove up to show support for MAS.
"There comes a time when you guys as decision makers need to stand up and do what's right," said another.
Well known activist David Morales, who blogs under the name "The Three Sonorans," sharply criticized Stegeman's proposal to return the books. "You guys are in trouble," he said. "You shouldn't have banned the books to begin with. That's what you shouldn't have done. You shouldn't have banned the classes."
Later, 9 On Your Side asked Morales what it would take to end the fighting and move on.
"You've got to remember all the people here on this side we're not asking for any restriction on any other culture or ethnicity groups," he said, "What we want is to stop a restriction on our culture and our history and our literature. What we want is to stop the attacks."
Protesters say the proposal coming from Stegeman was purely political, and that he hadn't earned their trust. 9 On Your Side asked Stegeman what it would take to end the distrust and move forward.
"All I can do is try to propose things that make sense to me I think are good for the district, go in ways I think serve the longer interest of the district," said Stegeman, "and people have to form their own opinions."
The TUSD board voted to end its Mexican American studies program earlier this year under heavy pressure from the state. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal had found TUSD's program to be in violation of a new state law that, among other things, banned programs that teach ethnic solidarity. Huppenthal threatened to withhold millions of dollars in state funding even though his own investigative panel had ruled that TUSD's program was not in violation of the law. But an administrative law judge upheld Huppenthal's finding, which set the stage for TUSD's January board vote dismantling the program.
Morales and other MAS supporters have vowed to continue to protest TUSD's decision throughout the summer.