US probes civil rights complaint against TUSD

Activist says Latinos were treated unfairly before Chavez march
2012-05-10T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:43:31Z US probes civil rights complaint against TUSDAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 10, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has opened a second investigation into the Tucson Unified School District's treatment of Latinos.

The complaint alleges that TUSD discriminated against Latinos on the basis of national origin by placing restrictions on a Latino community event without placing similar restrictions on other community organizations holding events at district facilities, according to the Education Department.

Though the department declined to release further details about the open investigation, Silverio Garcia Jr., executive director of the nonprofit Civil Rights Center Inc., who filed the complaint, said the event he was referring to is the annual Cesar Chavez march.

The march, which has traditionally begun at TUSD's Pueblo Magnet High School, 3500 S. 12th Ave., was moved to another location this year after the district asked organizers to take certain concerns under consideration.

Those concerns, according to organizers, essentially prohibited participants from mentioning the elimination of TUSD's Mexican American Studies courses. It was the decision of the organizers to relocate.

Garcia, of Glendale, also was the initiator of another Office of Civil Rights investigation currently under way against the district.

That investigation involves allegations that TUSD discriminated against Latinos by attempting to limit their participation at Governing Board meetings that have been of particular interest to Latinos.

The investigation is also focusing on a claim that the district discriminated against minority individuals with limited English proficiency by failing to provide them with access to district board meetings, the district's website and board policies.

Garcia has worked for years fighting for civil rights throughout the state. He has filed numerous civil rights complaints and has been involved in the issues of equal educational opportunity and equal access for Latinos throughout Arizona in various school districts and counties.

Viva Samuel Ramirez, board president of the Civil Rights Center, pledged to lend support to those who have been discriminated against.

"We will be looking out for Tucson and will continue to monitor this situation," Ramirez said Tuesday. "There are countless violations that are going on with the way this school district is run. ... We will continue to add support in any way we can for the people who are suffering discrimination as a result of some of the policies that have taken hold here in Tucson."

If TUSD is found to be in violation, the U.S. Department of Education would work with the district to come into compliance with civil-rights laws. The agency said in most cases it is able to work out an agreement with districts before enforcement action is needed. If that cannot be achieved, the case could be referred to the Justice Department for legal action or cutting funding to the district.

TUSD has forwarded the complaints to outside counsel for review, as is district practice with civil rights complaints.

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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