Skipping school in protest: What are the consequences?
TUSD students again walk out over Mexican-American studies, face possible detentionPhoto: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Jan. 23, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Hundreds of students ditch the classroom to create one of their own in protest over the slashing of TUSD’s Mexican-American studies program. What will happen to them?
Just over a week ago, dozens of Cholla High students walked out and marched to the school district’s headquarters. Monday, their numbers grew, as students from Pueblo, Tucson High and Wakefield Middle School joined them in another walkout.
“We demand the restoration of Mexican-American studies curriculum with no compromises,” one female student said to the crowd with a megaphone.
They settled on the building’s lawn, delivering their demands and teaching each other lessons in Mexican culture and history.
No district administrator was available Monday afternoon to talk about the consequences the students will face skipping school, but a spokeswoman says a student with unexcused absence serves a Saturday detention.
“It's an unexcused absence unless their parents write them a note and tell them that it's excused,” school board member Adelita Grijalva told the crowd. “But, otherwise, it's unexcused absence.”
Grijalva was the only district board member to vote against scrapping the program. She spoke to the students and addressed concerns they were putting their education on hold to protest.
“I don't believe that they're not getting an education today,” she told KGUN9 News and the crowd. “I believe that this is an education that they can't get in class. While I'm not advocating for them to be out of school--every day I want them to be in school--the fact is that they're trying to give us a message.”
Fellow board member Michael Hicks takes aim at that. “You want your education, but you're leaving school and you're not getting educated when you're not in school,” Hicks said, referring to the students.
Hicks adds there consequences for the district when students walk out: “Parents bring their kids to the school and expect their kids to be safe,” he said, citing safety and security concerns. “We're supposed to have a safe environment for these kids and they leave school--we have no real control over that.”
Board member Dr. Mark Stegeman said the district also stands to lose state funding, as the student attendance average decreases with each absence. The state says any reduction would be minimal.
“The Department of Education, for school funding purposes, looks at funding over a 100-day period so one particular day in 100 days isn't going to have a dramatic impact on whether the district's funding is going to go up or down,” said department spokesman Andrew LeFevre.
Students plan to take the protest further by skipping school Tuesday to teach themselves more lessons in Mexican-American studies with family.