VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 24   |   JUNE 15 – 21, 2011


Huppenthal rules TUSD’s Raza Studies program noncompliant

‘The revolution sees Mexicans turn into gray gringos … brag like washed up vendidos and kiss the man’s ass’

john huppenthalPHOENIX – On June 15, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal (l) announced his determination regarding the Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) Raza Studies program, which has apparently been renamed somewhere along the line to Mexican American Studies.

Huppenthal stated, “Throughout this investigation, it became very apparent that the evidence provided by the independent curriculum audit and the totality of all the information gathered, that the TUSD Governing Board failed to provide the statutorily required curriculum development and oversight of its Mexican American Studies Program.”

He said not only did the governing board fail to comply with state statutes, but it failed to comply with its own adopted policies on curriculum development and its text materials approval process.

During a press conference held late Wednesday afternoon, Huppenthal stated, “As a result of the investigation and review of the Mexican American Studies Program and its classroom materials and instructional content, I find there is substantial evidence of a clear violation of Arizona Revised Statute Section 15-112 by the TUSD.”

A.R.S. § 15-112, Prohibited courses and classes; enforcement, states: “A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its Program of Instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following: 1. Promote overthrowing the U.S. government; 2. Promote resentment towards a race or class of people; 3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race; and 4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

Huppenthal found TUSD to specifically be in violation of sections 2-4.

The issues surrounding TUSD’s Raza Studies came to light while Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was superintendent of public instruction.

However, when the Raza Studies curriculum was brought to Horne’s attention, while he found the content had no place in an American public school, he also pointed out, by statute, he had no authority over a district’s curriculum.

A group of activists in Tucson continued to press the issue with the TUSD board, while providing Horne and state legislators with information that eventually resulted in the passage of A.R.S. § 15-112.

laura leightonAnd, according to Laura Leighton (r), one of the Tucson activists who pressed the district for information on the curriculum and textbooks being used in what TUSD formerly called its Raza (Race) Studies Program, it was like pulling teeth.

After students in the ethnic studies program took over the May 4, 2010 governing board meeting so no business could be conducted, the governing board rescheduled a meeting on May 10, 2011, which wasn’t much better, although, this time, it was the board members who were problematic.

John Munger, a 46-year Tucson resident and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, which runs the university system, spoke during public comment.

Munger told the board when questions first came up about TUSD’s ethnic studies programs he became interested and very concerned about all the discussions occurring on both sides from people who hadn’t read the materials.

He said, “I learned several things. First of all, TUSD didn’t want to give me the books. I had to do a FOIA request. When they did provide me the books, it was after five months. And they ended up not providing me all the books.”

Munger said he learned other people received books but they were different than the ones he was provided.

After receiving the books, Munger said he found some very concerning things.

“The books are not about history,” said Munger. “The books are not about ethnicity. The books teach two major themes … first, the books are classical showpieces of Marxist oriented indoctrination. They are about political oppression, incessant deprecation of anything not Chicano – including the U.S. Constitution, capitalism, and anything European or of European culture.

“Second of all, they teach students that they are oppressed; that they are principally not American, but that they are Chicano; should not join in on American society, but should separate themselves ultimately in an area called Aztlan, which is an area of the U.S. that now makes up California, Arizon, New Mexico and Texas – which has been stolen … by the Europeans.”

He said the books “constantly talk about the U.S. Constitution as slightly better than the Royal Charters of England but still made up by slave owners and evil doers. It talks about protests beyond the law is OK, including the word ‘sabotage.’”

Munger told the board, “That is wrong. These books are not about history. These books do not present alternative points of view.”

When Leighton got up to speak, she was interrupted by board member Adelita Grijalva (daughter of U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva), who told Board President Mark Stegeman, “I thought the whole point of allowing new speakers was to hear from other speakers, and we have heard from this speaker …”

Leighton responded, “I have not spoken here for months.”

Stegeman attempted to reason with Grijalva, who stated, “If I leave then we can’t have a meeting,” as she got up and walked out of the meeting.

Stegeman, who apologized for the interruption, stated the meeting was recessed until they reassembled a quorum.

When the meeting reconvened, board member Miguel Cuevas wanted clarification from Stegeman that Leighton would be the last speaker.

Leighton read from page 187 of one of the program’s books, a poem titled “The Revolution,” which she learned was being taught to children as young as the third grade.

She read, “The revolution sees Mexicans turn into gray gringos …

“… brag like washed up vendidos,” which Leighton explained means “sellouts,” “and kiss the man’s ass.”

At that point, Superintendent John Pedicone interrupted and said, “I’m sorry but, Dr. Stegeman, I’m going to ask that the language not be mentioned during public meetings. We may have young people in this room. It’s inappropriate.”

Leighton readily agreed, “You’re right. You’re right.”

A man in the audience yelled out, “You’re teaching it in the classroom!”

After Stegeman said he felt Pedicone’s intervention was appropriate, Leighton agreed, “Yes, I’ve said enough.”

Stating, “But this is being taught,” Leighton continued reading, “You can do it too, become the gringo’s stooge,” as a voice was heard saying, “Speaker’s time is up.”

TUSD has 60 days to bring its program into compliance with state law. Failure to do so will result in the withholding of 10 percent of the monthly apportionment of state aid until such a time as the district comes into compliance.

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