CREATED Mar 5, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A request is denied and another road block formed for those trying to save TUSD's Mexican-American studies program. What does it mean for students and the district?
MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, asked federal courts last month to reinstate the program. MALDEF argued eliminating the classes violated the district's plan for desegregation and student equality. District Court Judge David Bury ruled recently, rejecting that claim and denying the request.
“If the judge would have said, ‘OK, you have to put these programs back together,’ then that puts us in a predicament with the state, seeing that we were already found in violation of HB 2281,” TUSD board member Michael Hicks told KGUN9 News. “It would've caused more problems than it would have solved.”
Hicks and others say among the people who are better off because of the judge's decision are students. “They're not being shuffled around anymore and the teachers aren't being shuffled around anymore,” he said.
The court's decision means students and staff will continue taking literature and other courses chosen to replace Mexican-American studies classes.
“Is there an impact there?” KGUN9 reporter Kevin Keen asked district board president Dr. Mark Stegeman. “We already made one big change in these courses this semester. I think it's good for everybody that we don't have to make another one.”
But MALDEF maintains the program must be reinstated and students' education wouldn't be disrupted. “We believe that there's already a curriculum that's in place and that teachers have been following,” said Nancy Ramirez, western regional counsel for MALDEF. “We believe that it can be done in such a way that would not be disruptive to the students and it certainly would not be disruptive to the case.”
MALDEF takes aim at another reason not to reinstate the program--one the judge in this case agreed with in his ruling. That is: bringing the classes back would take focus off the effort to create new ethnic studies courses.
“One of the things that we're looking at is creating a truly multicultural course that encompasses all ethnicities,” Hicks said.
“The sooner we can get past the past conversation and get on to that conversation, the better,” Stegeman said. “I think we can do something that, in the end, will have a lot of support from different parts of the community.”
Ramirez said MALDEF wasn't able to fully present its case to the court, adding the organization will appeal and try to change the judge's mind.