When América Cárdenas decided to walk out of class Monday in support of Mexican American Studies, she knew there would be consequences.
What the Wakefield Middle School eighth-grader didn't expect was that she would be suspended from campus for the remainder of the week, especially since that wasn't the case for at least 100 others who had walked out of classes across the Tucson Unified School District.
In all, three high schools - Cholla, Tucson High and Pueblo - and one middle school - Wakefield - participated in the walkout.
Of the 12 to 15 students who walked out of Wakefield, most - if not all of them - were suspended. One Pueblo junior received the same punishment.
Suspensions were not handed out at Cholla or Tucson High. The district declined to say how those students were disciplined, though it has been said in the past that the consequences traditionally involve an unexcused absence and time in detention.
While the students believe they were suspended for walking out, TUSD Assistant Superintendent Abel Morado says that was not the case.
"Walking out is against school rules, but there were other issues - possibly past infractions or a long list of unexcused absences - that may have been taken under consideration," Morado said.
Upon hearing that the students couldn't go back to school, University of Arizona Assistant Professor Roberto Rodríguez invited them to take two of his classes - history of the Chicano movement and indigenous philosophers, indigenous thinkers. "The students should be in their classrooms, learning, but they're not letting them in," he said. "So I just said, if they won't educate them there, we'll educate them here."
Cárdenas and three of her classmates - Andrea Alcozar, Rene Hernandez and Yulissa Hurtado - took Rodríguez up on the offer on Thursday. Pueblo junior Juan Barragan, who led the charge at his school, also joined the group.
"I came here because I knew if I was at home, all I would be doing is sitting around, watching TV," Cárdenas said. "Here, I actually have a chance to learn more than I would if I were at home."
Hernandez called the opportunity to take part in the classes a privilege.
Though the students aren't happy about their suspensions, all said if given the chance for a do-over, they wouldn't change a thing.
"What motivates me is future generations," Hurtado said. "For them to have the opportunity to learn about any of the cultures; to have a better understanding of who they are as a person and why it's important for them to have an education."
Added Barragan: "It's not that this is fun for us. We're trying to open eyes up - to get people back into the attitude of being activists and doing what's right. It's in our human nature to stand up against what we think is wrong and oppresses us."
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4175.