A closer look at group that halted TUSD vote

2011-04-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:36:08Z A closer look at group that halted TUSD voteAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 28, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Within days of learning that a proposal was being brought forth to change some ethnic studies courses to electives, the youth-formed coalition Unidos came up with a plan.

Drastic times, they felt, called for drastic measures. So the group of more than two dozen people - primarily high school and university students - made a decision to take over the TUSD Governing Board room with the goal of preventing the vote.

Their effort was successful Tuesday evening when young people stormed the Tucson Unified School District boardroom and the district canceled its meeting.

"From our perspective, this was effective because letting that vote happen would have been an injustice," said Elisa Meza, a member of Unidos and a TUSD graduate who is now majoring in English at the University of Arizona.

The vote to alter the program was rescheduled for May 5.

Though the scene of students rushing in, chanting loudly and chaining themselves to board members' chairs could be perceived as disrespectful, that was not the intent, Meza said.

"We knew that if these are the classes we want, we would need to be sitting in the seats where decisions are made," Meza said. "We are not the way that Tom Horne would like us to be perceived - we're not working to overthrow the government - but we wanted to be in a position where the youth input mattered."

Though disappointed that the proposal is up for reconsideration, Unidos does not plan to back down, Meza said. The group will be at the May 5 meeting.

Meza was mum on how Unidos would address the board.

While there are a few adults associated with Unidos, the plan was a youth-led initiative, Meza said.

Two well-known community activists - Miguel Ortega and Pima County Legal Defender Isabel Garcia - were seen at the head of the crowd but both denied having anything to do with organizing the protest.

Both said they had planned to speak during the call to the audience and that they hadn't received any advance notice of what the youths planned.

"We were all shouting, it was exciting, but no one needs to instigate these young people," Garcia said. "They have minds of their own and people must give credit where credit is due - stopping the vote to demolish ethnic studies rests completely with these young people."

Added Ortega: "I was proud that the students took a nonviolent action to express themselves. I'm always thinking about the safety of the kids, so I wasn't going to ignore what was unfolding."

Adults did contribute some money for the locks and chains, Meza said.

Sound Strike, the Los Angeles-based organization that is leading the musicians protest against Arizona, donated the money to Unidos.

 

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