Amid allegations the Tucson Unified School District has discriminated against Latinos by attempting to limit their participation at public meetings, TUSD will develop protocol to determine when a larger meeting room is needed.
The allegations, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, stem from a series of Governing Board meetings in 2011 and 2012 in which overflow crowds looking to support or critique the district’s controversial Mexican American Studies courses spilled out into the street. On one occasion, the boisterous crowd required police action.
While an internal investigation found no evidence of intentional discrimination, there was an acknowledgment that on numerous occasions that the district moved meetings to a larger venue for issues like school closures and superintendent forums, but did not do the same for the highly charged Mexican American Studies conversations. Instead, those meetings were held in the regular meeting room, which can seat only 141 people.
As a result, the investigation — conducted by TUSD General Counsel Julie Tolleson, who was not employed by the district at the time — recommended a specific alternative meeting space be identified when a larger venue is needed, and that protocol be developed to describe how the decision to change a meeting location would be made.
The TUSD Governing Board, including two members who sat on the board when the events occurred, unanimously approved Tolleson’s recommendations, directing the staff to come back to the board with a plan within the next 60 days. The complaint was filed in 2012 by the nonprofit group Civil Rights Center Inc.
While TUSD has denied wrongdoing, the district voluntarily agreed to take steps to improve protocol that will assist non-English speakers in accessing meetings and materials.