Parents back youths who stormed meeting

2011-04-30T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:36:08Z Parents back youths who stormed meetingAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 30, 2011 12:00 am  • 

A group of nearly a dozen parents stood up in defense of their children who stormed the TUSD Governing Board meeting, forcing its cancellation.

The parents spoke out on Friday, explaining why they supported the action, which is now under review by law enforcement, and why they feel the Mexican American Studies courses should be left alone.

Tuesday's protest was organized by youth-formed coalition Unidos out of concern for the Mexican American Studies program.

The Governing Board was to consider making some of the courses electives instead of core classes.

Leila and Chris Duncan spoke in support of their daughter Maggie, a senior at University High School.

While Mexican American Studies courses are not offered at her school, the 18-year-old felt it was important to get involved, so she joined Unidos. She has friends who are enrolled in the courses and believes Mexican American history needs to be taught, her mother said.

"I'm proud of her and the other students who stood up for the future and the fate of the Mexican American Studies program," Leila Duncan said.

"I think they're doing the right thing," Maggie's father added. "They are speaking from a position where they're not in power, trying to speak to a position of power. They acted the way they did because they were not being heard, and I think it's time for us to listen."

While the Duncans say they support their daughter's decision, they are concerned that she could possibly face prosecution.

"I'm her mother and of course I don't like that, but it's something that they as a group had talked about and considered and still wanted to go forward with it," Leila Duncan said.

The Unidos group, made up mostly of current and former students, ran through the boardroom Tuesday minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin.

They chained themselves to board members' empty chairs and began chanting and pounding their fists. TUSD security attempted to remove them but were unsuccessful.

The boardroom quickly filled up well beyond capacity as the protest went on for two hours.

Supporters of the group call the incident an act of nonviolent civil disobedience.

However, the Tucson Unified School District said the youths unlawfully interfered with the operation of the district, adding that behavior like that would not be tolerated.

On StarNet: Go to azstarnet.com/gallery for photos from the protest at the board meeting. See a video of the takeover at azstarnet.com/video

MEETING CHANGED

The TUSD board meeting has been rescheduled to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at TUSD headquarters, 1010 E. 10th Street.

The agenda will remain the same, to include a proposal to change some ethnic studies courses to electives.

It had initially been set for Thursday at Catalina Magnet High School.

The TUSD boardroom and lobby can hold a total of 185 people. That capacity will be enforced. Speakers will be set up outside for the overflow crowd to hear the proceedings.

Factors in the date and venue change include:

• Thursday is Cinco de Mayo - a day that has symbolic value.

• While Catalina accommodates more members of the public, it would be harder for police to gain control. Catalina would require more resources in terms of security officers.

Precautions that will be taken at 1010 include:

• The use of more than a dozen TUSD school safety employees - some of whom will be armed - and four to six on-duty police officers.

School safety personnel work for TUSD, but those on overtime earn $28 an hour.

• Those attending the meeting will be searched. Purses will be checked and backpacks will not be allowed. Metal detector wands may be used.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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