The battle over Ethnic Studies continued in Tucson Unified School District Tuesday when the board briefly discussed bringing some books from the terminated Mexican American Studies program back into the classroom.
Board member Mark Stegeman put the item on the meeting agenda for discussion and possible action. But he said that he only wanted to have the books considered the same as other books in other subjects. He said that he stood by his vote to end the Mexican American Studies program, and that allowing the books in the classroom might make them available for a future multicultural curriculum.
"It's certainly possible," Stegeman said outside TUSD headquarters before the meeting. "If staff decided to make that recommendation to the board and bring them through the approval process just like we would for a math book or a science book or any other book, I mean, there's a specified process for that and some of the books could go through that process and be approved."
The seven titles that had been removed from the classroom and were up for discussion are the following:
Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado,
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuna,
500 Years of Chicano History, edited by Elizabeth Martinez,
Message to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales,
Chicano! The history of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales,
Pedegogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Fiere,
and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow.
Some of the books are now available in school libraries. While Stegeman proposed to allow them back in the classroom, MAS supporters continued to call for the program to be reinstated.
Some who spoke at Tuesday night's meeting said that without the program, the district could not bring back the books. They said that by following state law and ending the program, the books were also prohibited. But, supporters said, if the district brought back the program, it and the books would be protected by a federal desegregation order that the district is addressing in federal court.
"All you have to do is agree to bring back the MAS program," said MAS supporter Jana Happel. "It will be protected by federal law and you will be following the law. But if you try to obstruct the reinstatement of the MAS program, you had better be careful, because you will have to explain your position without any cover from Huppenthal or that racist piece of garbage, 2281."
Happel was referring to state school superintendent John Huppenthal and House Bill 2281, which was the law that prohibited Mexican American Studies and allowed ten percent of TUSD's state funding to be held back each month that it continued to offer the classes. The losses would have been in the millions. But supporters from around the country and world have been here this month as part of a movement to bring back MAS called Tucson Freedom Summer.
As they gathered outside TUSD headquarters Tuesday night with music, books, and food, the board inside never voted on bringing back the seven books. Adelita Grijalva considered Stegeman's idea hypocritical since he voted to end Mexican American Studies. Board president Miguel Cuevas said that he stood behind his previous vote to end the program and to move ahead with a more multicultural curriculum that will stay within state law. And members Michael Hicks and Alex Sugiyama remained silent. Stegeman did not move for a vote because he considered three votes in favor to be unlikely. But he also said that despite his motion, he was not seeking to change his stance on ending MAS and comply with state law.
"I still support that," he said before the meeting. "But the books was something that the board did not adopt explicitly. Staff did what it thought it had to do and I'm not questioning that. But that's created a lot of concern about how we treat books and I don't think books were the issue."
Some members of Tucson Freedom Summer appeared in front of Stegeman's house last week to ask that he explain his actions. But he was not home. One speaker at Tuesday night's meeting said that he had previously been near board member Michael Hicks' home, and told the other board members to expect a visit, possibly with the exception of Adelita Grijalva since she has spoken and voted in favor of MAS.
"There's more soldiers on the way," said Tucson Freedom Summer organizer Joaquin Castro, who said that he was in Tucson from Detroit. "Hicks, that was me in your neighborhood, okay? Telling you, and I plan on going to each and every one of your neighborhoods, knocking on doors, to let them people know, your neighbors, know how racist you are."
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