Protestors Take Over Tucson School Board Meeting

by Betsy Gomez

Last week, the Tucson Unified School Board voted 3-2 against renewing the contract for Sean Arce, the director of the school district’s disbanded Mexican American Studies program, in spite of support voiced during the public-comment period of the meeting. In response, protestors tied themselves together with zip ties and chanted in support of the MAS program. No one was injured or arrested during the protest despite tightened security at recent school board meetings.

With the dismantling of the highly-praised MAS program, books by Mexican-American and Native authors were removed from Tucson classrooms, a move decried by CBLDF and other Free Speech advocates.

The protestors attended the meeting in support of renewing Arce’s contract and reinstating the MAS program. The refusal to renew Acre’s contract effectively means that he likely has been let go from employment by the school district.

Associated Press contributor Amanda Lee Myers covered the meeting and cited an interview with a Tucson school board member from a recent episode of The Daily Show with John Stewart as adding fuel to the protests. From the Huffington Post:

Protesters at Tuesday’s meeting also acted out in response to an April 2 segment about the Mexican-American studies program on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

On the show, board member Michael Hicks says that part of the reason students enjoyed the Mexican-American studies program was because their teachers gave them burritos every week and told the interviewer: “If there’s no more white people in the world, then OK, you can do what you want.”

Also during the interview, Hicks said he had never observed one of the Mexican-American studies classes, adding: “I base my thoughts on hearsay.”

Protesters hand-delivered a burrito to Hicks before Tuesday’s board meeting and doled them out to people outside. They also carried signs with a caricature of Hicks on them that read: “When there’s no more white people left, then yeah, they can do whatever they want.”

According to a news report from Craig Smith with Tucson’s ABC affiliate, KGUN-9, Arce’s attorney Richard Martinez thinks the move may be premature. Matrinez believes that the Arizona state law that led to the dismantling of the MAS program will be ruled unconstitutional by a federal court, allowing for the reinstatement of the program.

To view the report from KGUN-9 and to read Myers’ coverage of the story, visit the Huffington Post here. You can read CBLDF’s coverage of the Tucson book ban here, here, here, and here.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!