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TUSD board member Hicks now stoops to slander

Mexican American Studies opponents traffic in lies and, now, even slander. On Feb. 2, Tucson Unified School District board member Michael Hicks - in his capacity as a member of the board - was on the Garrett Lewis A.M. show (KNST 97.1).

On that program, Hicks compared the University of Arizona MAS faculty who participated in a recent "teach in" involving TUSD students at the UA to the notorious alleged occurrences of child rape at Penn State. Here's what Hicks said:

"While there (at the UA), the director of the Mexican American Studies program indicated that these children were going into their classrooms, with their adult, you know, college students, behind closed doors, and no one was allowed to go into the classes, to either get taught or educated or to be … I don't know. For me, I'm like, you know what? Penn State? You know, what's going on behind closed doors with our children?"

To mention UA faculty in the same sentence as someone charged with numerous counts linked to child rape and sodomy - which is the image that "Penn State" in this context conjures up - is a slander of the highest order.

Regardless of how one feels about the MAS issue, I submit that a school board member falsely linking UA faculty to the Penn State allegations is just plain wrong.

The potential ramifications of Hicks' utterances are not trivial. A UA MAS faculty member has already received death threats due to his public support of the TUSD MAS program. Having unbalanced individuals believe, based on Hicks' assertion, that MAS faculty are engaging in child rape and such abominations can provoke not only threats but attacks on MAS faculty members.

A recurring theme in Hicks' interview is that the UA MAS faculty recruited the Wakefield Middle School students and asked them to go to the UA for the teach-in rather than attend their regular school. This is repeated, in various permutations, several times throughout the interview.

The reality is that the Wakefield students were prohibited by TUSD from attending TUSD schools because they were on suspension for having walked out of class to protest the dismantling of the MAS curriculum. Per TUSD, they were supposed to hang out at home, or wherever kids hang out on school days when they do not go to school.

So we have the incongruous situation of TUSD preferring students to hang out at home, or wherever, rather than go to their regular school or go to the UA and participate in educational activities - and then TUSD demonizes the UA MAS faculty for "luring" the TUSD students to the UA to participate in educational activities.

Hicks knew these students were under suspension and therefore could not have attended their regular school (he said as much in the interview) and therefore were not "lured" to miss school. Yet in the interview he kept gnawing on the leitmotif that the UA MAS faculty "lured" the kids out of class.

Hicks cannot unring the bell he rung, but he can and should muster the integrity to render a public apology to the UA MAS faculty for the erroneous and odious comments he made about them in that radio interview as well as to the students whom he maligned.

For my part, I make no apology for expecting a school board member to be responsible in his exercise of his right of free speech.

Salomón R. Baldenegro has been involved with TUSD for over 60 years as a student, parent, PTA officer, member of numerous task forces and committees, and advocate for equal educational opportunity for all children. Email him at

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