Ethnic studies protestors not off the hook yet
Posted: Apr 28, 2011 4:37 PM
Updated: Apr 29, 2011 8:59 PM
A protestor's chains stymie an overwhelmed security guard Tuesday night
Chained protestors succeeded in shutting down the meeting
Superintendent John Pedicone observed the chaotic scene without
commenting to the protestors. He's commenting now, calling the
incident an unlawful act.
ALSO ON KGUN9.COM
Ethnic studies battle spills over outside of meeting room
Full text of Pedicone statement
Protestors take over TUSD boardroom in ethnic studies face-off
Raw video: ethnic studies protestors derail school board meeting
Reporter: Tammy Vo
Web Producer: Forrest Carr
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Legally speaking, protestors who stormed and took
over the Tucson Unified School Board meeting room Tuesday night in a
fight over ethnic studies are not out of the woods yet. The Tucson
Police Department and TUSD both confirm that the department is
actively investigating and that charges are still possible.
In Tuesday night's incident, chanting protestors demonstrating in
favor of the district's embattled Mexican American studies program
filled the meeting room. Several young students shouldered past
overwhelmed security guards and succeeded in chaining themselves to
board members' chairs. The rowdy takeover forced cancellation of the
At the time, TUSD officials decided not to ask police to clear the
room and make arrests. But a TPD spokesman told KGUN9 News on
Thursday that arrests could still happen. Public information officer
Matt Ronstadt said that officers are in the process of reviewing
video taken during the incident and are taking statements.
Ronstadt said officers plan to have a follow-up meeting with TUSD
officials some time before the next board meeting to discuss what
happened and learn what action, if any, the district wants to take.
Ronstadt said those participating in the takeover could face charges
including disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and disturbing a
Late Thursday afternoon superintendent John Pedicone issued a
statement to the media. "It is the position of school administration
that this was an unlawful act which interfered with the effective
operation of the school district," Pedicone wrote. "While students
and community members have the right of free speech, they do not have
the right to interfere with or impede the operation of the district,
especially as it applies to the governance function."
A student group known as UNIDOS claimed credit for the disruption,
but not all of those participating were TUSD students. The goal was
to prevent the board from voting on a proposal to turn the ethnic
studies program into an elective, a move opponents feel will
effectively kill the program. The board is scheduled to try again
next week. This time it will move the meeting to a larger venue at
Catalina High School.
Pedicone said that TUSD does not intend to allow protestors to engage
in a repeat performance. "This type of behavior will not be
tolerated. Precautions will be taken to prevent any recurrence of
this type of incident in the future and will include enhanced safety
and security procedures."
State education chief John Huppenthal is now auditing TUSD's program
to determine whether it violates a new state law placing restrictions
on such programs. Among other things, the law prohibits programs
that teach "ethnic solidarity" or that promote the overthrow of the
U.S. government. If TUSD is found to be out of compliance, it could
face the loss of millions of dollars in state funding.
Students take over TUSD boardroom in Ethnic Studies face off
Posted: Apr 26, 2011 6:21 PM
Updated: Apr 27, 2011 3:54 PM
Reporter: Ileana Diaz
Web Producers: David Rush and Martha Serda
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Students supporting TUSD's ethnic studies program
stormed a board room just minutes before the school board was to take
up a controversial proposal Tuesday night, forcing cancellation of
The proposal, by board member Dr. Mark Stegeman, would allow the
district to offer the embattled program as elective courses.
Currently Mexican American studies can be taken in place of U.S.
history as a required core class.
About 15 minutes before the board was to discuss the proposal,
students ran in with chains, and tied themselves to the board
members' chairs. They then closed the doors and began chanting.
Supporters ran to chant with them. So instead of letting the Board
vote, the students forced their own agenda. The protest went on for
Under Stegeman's resolution, only Mexican-American Literature would
count as a core credit. Other subjects under Raza Studies, like
social studies and history, would count as electives.
Opponents call this plan a disguise that is really designed to first
dismantle Ethnic Studies and then eventually kill it as a whole. The
same ten teachers who filed a lawsuit against the state to keep
Ethnic Studies held a press conference Monday morning outside TUSD's
"We're tired of having politicians tell us professionals how to
conduct and how to teach kids," said Jose Gonzalez. Together, they
called on Superintendent John Pedicone to publicly reject Stegeman's
Dr. Pedicone did not have a comment. Board Member Adelita Grijalva,
said she was "impressed," with the coordination of the protest.
Other members called the scene, "civil discourse."
Students said they wanted more members to stay and hear them out, but
most left the room.
The vote on whether to make the Ethnic Studies classes electives
instead of core classes has been rescheduled for May 5th.
Parents of table pounding protesters speak out
Posted: Apr 29, 2011 9:29 PM
Updated: Apr 29, 2011 9:33 PM
Reporter: Sergio Avila
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - As the fists were pounding and the students
chanted, "Our Education is under attack. What do we do? Fight back,"
Earnest Clark stood in the audience and watched everything his
daughter was doing.
"What happened that night, I saw it with my own eyes, all I could do
was smile and say brilliant," Clark said.
Earnest approved of every moment. The former TUSD teacher tells 9OYS
he will support his daughter no matter what. Even when some are
critical of him and the other parents for allowing this to happen.
"My daughter is part of the next generation that's going to rule this
country and she has to stand up for what she believes in," Clark said.
The parents all admitted they had no idea what was going to happen at
the meeting. Those critical of the protest have said the
demonstration must have been adult driven. Leila Duncan's daughter
also chained herself to a board members' char. Duncan is adamant
adults had nothing to do with the protest.
"I thought if you could present the parents point of view and show
they support their students and that it's not an adult driven
movement, it's not supported by left-wing groups in town or adults,
it's kids who value these programs," Duncan said.
But the outburst could still have consequences if a complaint is
filed against the students. Even knowing that, the parents don't
think any consequences are necessary after their kids chained
themselves to chairs and disrupted a public meeting.
"What charges, there wasn't any violence, there wasn't any vandalism,
the only thing they did was stand up in front to be heard," Eduardo
Verjas, father of one of the protesters, said.
Duncan tells KGUN9 News the students were left with no choice.
"I think they felt desperate and you know they're young, they kind of
make crazy decisions but they thought this out and they planned this
out and they knew what the consequences could be," Duncan said.
During the protest on Tuesday 9OYS witnessed a few opponents of the
Mexican American Studies program being heckled by supporters. The
parents also wanted to make it clear the students did not condone
those actions. They feel everyone should have the right to be heard.
Riled: angry ethnic studies protest provokes angry response
Posted: Apr 29, 2011 11:07 AM
Updated: Apr 30, 2011 8:00 AM
Protesting students take over the TUSD board room, grabbing the media
spotlight and preventing a vote on the embattled ethnic studies program
Chaos: protestors and onlookers fill the small TUSD meeting room.
Pima County public defender Isabel Garcia, an outspoken immigrant
rights activist (lower center of picture) was at the head of the
crowd as students were chaining themselves into place.
Meeting adjourned -- TUSD gives up and cancels the board meeting
Dancing in the street -- ethnic studies supporters celebrate victory
after preventing the vote
An ethnic studies supporter (far left) lectures reporter Joel Waldman
on objectivity after Waldman attempted to interview an opponent.
ALSO ON KGUN9.COM
9OYS continuing coverage: ethnic studies battle
Chanting protestors take over TUSD meeting room in ethnic studies
Ethnic studies protest spills outside TUSD board meeting
Ethnic studies protestors not off the hook yet - charges still possible
Raw video: ethnic studies protestors derail TUSD board meeting
Notes by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
This week students and adults fighting to save TUSD's embattled
Mexican American studies program raised their voices in a loud,
raucous, chaotic takeover of the school board's meeting room. If it
were possible to hear raised voices through email, we'd be hearing
that now in the response this event has evoked among KGUN9 viewers.
In Tuesday night's incident, some TUSD students chained themselves to
board members' chairs. They succeeded in shutting down the board
meeting, thereby preventing a vote on the proposal they were
opposing. That proposal, if passed, would have turned the endangered
La Raza program into an elective, which opponents say would
effectively kill it. The proposal is an attempt to head off a
showdown over a state law passed last year, which forbids programs
that, among other things, teach "ethnic solidarity" or that promote
the overthrow of the U.S. government.
The protest was, in once sense, a classic demonstration of American
free speech rights and peaceful civil disobedience, in the great
tradition of the civil rights movement of the sixties. But in
another sense it succeeded, if only for a week, in shutting down the
very democratic process the students were attempting to influence.
9 On Your Side viewers on all sides of the issue are steamed. The
whole controversy has resulted in more feedback to KGUN9 News than
we've seen since SB 1070 was passed last year.
L R Bethea Jr. writes: "I really think the Ethnic Studies Program
should be dropped until such time as there is no inflammatory signs
or oratory.... I also feel all who come to this country should
assimilate into the overall society as have millions who have
"west1890" writes: "A typical liberal temper tantrum. 'Give me what
I want or I'll kick and scream and make your life miserable.' They've
certainly had enough far left examples lately to learn their childish
tactics from. We may even find a future Pelosi or Obama in this crowd."
"anni" writes: "Those students should all be thrown out of school
for the remainder of this term. bunch of brats!"
"AZBarb" writes: "This is what those students have been taught...
this is exactly why those programs SHOULD NOT be taught here. If they
want to act that way, they should go back to Mexico."
"RoniJ43" writes: "What is out of control is racism in AZ.
Especially when people tell these kids to go back to Mexico when you
don't even KNOW where they are born! .... Wow, look at the comments
here! Should be kicked out and Liberal tantrums? You know, this is a
protest and is what the Constitution says we have freedom to do. So,
it's ok for the Tea Party, but no one else? Give me a break! This is
America and these kids are being Americans! Great day in AZ!!! You go
kids!! We are with you everywhere across the USA!"
"Ginalily" writes: "I am so glad that these students know their
rights and are willing to fight for what they believe in!"
"Madge11" writes: "Why in the world would they be allowed to take
Mexican American studies instead of U.S. History? That makes no
sense. Last time I checked we live in the US, making US history a
logical core requirement."
"Yzzil2u" writes: "What the students did, is completely within their
rights and power. It is truly no different then what happened in the
Civil Rights movement during campaigns like the Lunch Counter one, in
which African American students took up seats that was illegal for
them to sit in and wait to be served even though a waitress never
even allowed them to order. It is illegal to protest in a way that
incites a riot, but sitting in the seats of the board (a board which
controls the school) is perfectly with in the law.... It's time we
are allowed to have our voices heard, and it is a crime against
humanity that people do not support the idea of standing up for what
we believe in or that we might care about our education."
"AZmouse" writes: "This just proves what these students are being
taught. They all should have been arrested and suspended from
school. They just showed all of Tucson and America just what they
are and what they stand for. Ethnic studies bull, let their families
teach them, don't throw my tax money away on a bunch of scum that
want to over throw the USA. In case you haven't noticed this is the
USA, not Mexico, try this in Mexico schools and see what happens. You
all take this country for granted, instead of working to better it.
If you love Mexico so much go back to it."
"mizchemteacher" writes: "They are being taught to stand up for what
they believe in, rather than bow in deference to a discriminatory law
like HR2281 [the Ethnic Studies crackdown]. If you had any actual
first-hand knowledge about the issue, you would know that a large
segment of the people at the action tonight, and of the youth who
take these classes, are white. And by the way, what is really wrong
with education in this country are people like you, who think you
"throw tax money away (to educate) a bunch of scum." Trying to undo
the ignorance you spew chews up a whole lot of tax dollars."
"experienced" writes: "So now the school board, elected by adults,
is supposed to let belligerent, uneducated children tell then how to
set the curriculum in the school district? It would be interesting to
see the attendance records and grades of these students I remember
how easy it is to get caught up in "defiant" behavior. Parents and
adults should get control of their kids."
"Tangod" writes: "The behavior of the students was completely out of
hand. It will just add more fuel to fire, helping the anti-ethnic
studies people prove their point that these classes are producing
rebellious hostile students that only want to overthrow the
government. By them interrupting, heckling, being rude and
disrespectful I am almost embarrassed to say I supported them before.
This behavior puts a black eye on the entire program. They should all
feel ashamed of their actions. They only made themselves look
foolish. I do think Ethnic Studies should be taught in school, but
embracing all ethnicities, not just Mexican. I originally thought the
anti group was racist, but now it is clear that both sides are."
"Papoosie" writes: "Bravo young people. This is not about an
"elective" class. It's about the continuous oppression of the AZ
state legislature against people of color. We will not be dismissed."
Billie Jean Murchison (via Facebook): "Yet the liberal and LaRaza
loving masses claim they teach 'Diversity'", and 'A rich culture' in
these classes. All I see is anti-American rhetoric being force fed
to the indoctrinated youth. The ethnic studies teachers are USING
these students for their own agenda. They disgust me."
Whenever a controversial subject like this one hits the news, someone
is sure to level an accusation that simply because KGUN9 news
covered the event, we're biased. "Tim" made sure this incident was
no exception, writing, "The complete outburst of uncontrolled
behavior should have resulted in arrests. A well informed educated
group of adults made an informed decision. Why does KGUN9 treat this
like it's entertainment? Are they again displaying their bias! Shame
on them, the police and any politician that dirties himself, by
supporting this outrageous conduct!"
But don't get the idea that only those on the right side of the
political spectrum are trying to stifle the voices of opponents. Not
at all. On the night of the demonstration, when a protestor caught
KGUN9 reporter Joel Waldman interviewing two ethnic studies
supporters who'd shown up in a vain attempt to be heard, she tried to
prevent it, objecting to the interview then heckling the
interviewees. When Waldman challenged her actions, the protestor
told Waldman, with a perfectly straight face, that he needed to work
on his objectivity. She added, "They have a right to speak... I just
don't understand why you're spending so much time talking to them."
Let's get this straight. The reporter trying to cover the news and
interview all sides lacks objectivity. But those trying to prevent
him from doing so don't?
It is a topsy-turvy world.
And by the way, what happened to all those cries for more civil
public discourse that we've been hearing recently? Isn't Tucson
supposed to be the center for that movement right now? How does that
fit into each side trying to shout down the other in this debate?
But wait. Who says democracy is the best way to settle our affairs?
Maybe the combatants in this issue have hit upon something better:
he or she who shouts the loudest wins. You don't need a board vote
or a ballot box to measure the outcome of that kind of contest --
just a decibel meter. It might make life simpler.