Mexican American Studies: A claimed death threat brings two opponents together
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A claim of a death threat brought two opponents together at TUSD headquarters today.
The man who's done the most to shut down the Mexican American Studies program, calmly shared a microphone with an advocate who's worked hard to preserve and revive it.
Attorney General Tom Horne started his part of the news conference off with a reminder: As state school superintendent he wrote the law that prompted the TUSD board to shut down Mexican American Studies.
Deeper in the news conference he said, "I think it's a highly racist curriculum."
UA Mexican American Studies Professor Doctor Roberto Rodriguez is working to restore the program to TUSD.
"He (Horne) said our curriculum is highly racist. We live in a highly racist society."
In a way, Randall Leon Thompson man brought them together.
Doctor Rodriguez says Thompson made phone calls threatening to kill him. Thompson goes to trial next week on misdemeanor charges but Rodriguez feels the case is really a hate crime.
The charge against Thompson reflects bad behavior by Mexican American Studies opponents. Demonstrators for the program have kept a higher profile with demonstrations that disrupted board meetings. Horne complains some protests made him a special target.
Now Horne and Rodriguez are calling for a more civil discussion of the dispute.
Rodriguez says some of those protests reflect frustration and are like civil rights protests back through history. Asked about protestors who've shown up at houses of school board members, he said he did not know the specifics.
"But I think in a general sense, obviously, we don't want intimidation of anyone. I think if it's legal and legitimate protest then people shouldn't be prohibited from doing that but if it goes beyond what's legitimate and what's legal and again here's our top lawman. Maybe he can tell us."
Though both men said they would not debate Mexican American Studies they each tried to make points for their viewpoint, perhaps Horne a bit more than Rodriguez.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith said to Horner, "Sir, respectfully, I've got to point out, you have kind of outlined your complaint against Mexican American Studies in the course of this news conference"
Horne replied: "I could say a lot more but the professor and I agreed this was not the subject of our debate here."
Both Rodriguez and Horne would like UA's Center for Civil Discourse to try to help reconcile all sides of the Mexican American Studies dispute.
TUSD issued a statement that cites threats made against both sides, demonstrations, and visits to board members with what the statement calls intent to intimidate.
It calls for more civility in the debate.