Tucson School Board Tightens Security

Imagine going through a security check more involved than anything you face before taking a flight, even if you’re a small child. You must be entering a high-security building, like the White House, right? You may also be entering a school board meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

The Tuscon Unified School District beefed up security at their school board meetings in response to the outrage fostered when the Tucson school district decided to end the Mexican American Studies program and removed several books by Mexican and Native authors from classrooms. Even small children are not exempt from being wanded and searched by security. When a Latino father took a photo of his 9-year-old son being searched before a meeting, his photo went viral and was embraced as emblematic of the anti-Latino and anti-immigrant attitude many feel is endemic in Arizona.

According to officials, the additional security was implemented in response in part to a meeting takeover by local students:

In January, the program was formally dismantled. Tucson school board member Michael Hicks said the board had no choice but to follow state law.

The move angered students and supporters of the program who fought to save it. Last April, a group of high school students took over a school board meeting, chaining themselves to chairs.

Hicks said the current increased security measures at school board meetings are partly in response to the student takeover. He also tells CNN recent tragedies like the 2011 shooting of Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords, and a standoff with an armed man at a Florida school board meeting in 2010, warrant additional security.

The security guards, many of whom are armed, are there to insure the safety of all who attend school board meetings, Hicks said. But some parents, like Tanya Alvarez, who is engaged to Nicolas’ father, aren’t convinced. Alvarez says school board meetings are public forums to openly discuss education, and going through security screening is intimidating and might keep families away.

For an article about the security at Tucson school board meetings, including video of the screenings and the student takeover, visit CNN’s In America blog here. CBLDF signed a letter in protest of the removal of books from Tucson classrooms. You read our coverage here, here, and here.

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Betsy Gomez is the Web Editor for CBLDF.