The TUSD Governing Board voted to dismantle the contentious Mexican American Studies program in an effort to avoid losing millions in state funding.

Tuesday's 4-1 vote came amid name calling in the boardroom and an angry overflow crowd chanting outside TUSD headquarters, "We will not comply!"

Board President Mark Stegeman, board Clerk Michael Hicks and members Alexandre Sugiyama and Miguel Cuevas voted to drop the program.

All supported revamping either the program or some classes so they are more comprehensive and include the contributions of all ethnicities.

Member Adelita Grijalva voted against the decision, calling instead for the district to continue to defend the program through a court appeal and to challenge the constitutionality of the law, which she called racist.

"I feel like this community has faced such a battle over the last year and a half, it's almost exhausting," Grijalva said. "You see it in the tears and pleas from the students. … I feel that this board doesn't understand the impact beyond our TUSD community.

"This is an issue that is not going to go away by this vote. When bad laws are written, they are usually picked up by other states. This is an opportunity to fight a bad law," she said.

More than a dozen audience members echoed Grijalva's sentiments during the call-to-the-audience portion of the meeting.

Mayra Feliciano, a Rincon High School graduate, turned her back to the board when it was her turn to take the podium, choosing instead to address the crowd because she felt the board turned its back on students.

"No matter what decision they make, no matter what they choose to do to our classes, as a community, we're not going to let that happen," Feliciano said before the vote. "We're going to keep it alive. We're going to keep our culture, our history, our identity, language and our education alive because we're not going to allow them to take it away."

The courses will cease immediately. Students will be transferred to existing traditional courses without jeopardizing class credits, TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone said.

The decision will likely satisfy Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal, who has twice found TUSD in violation of state law, saying the courses promote racial resentment, are designed primarily for one ethnic group and advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals.

In his most recent declaration last week, Huppenthal also ordered that the Arizona Department of Education withhold 10 percent of TUSD's monthly state aid until it can come into compliance, at which time the funds will be returned.

TUSD was to see its first reduction of $4.9 million for August through January, because the penalty was retroactive to the beginning of the school year.

While the board voted to accept Huppenthal's finding and dismantle the program, the district has long held that it is not in violation of the law.

The district appealed to an administrative law judge last year, but the judge ultimately sided with Huppenthal.

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That round of unsuccessful litigation cost the district more than $180,000.

As TUSD considered how to move forward after Huppenthal's ruling, a group of Mexican American Studies educators and students challenging the constitutionality of the law independently in federal court suffered a blow.

They sought a preliminary injunction to stop Huppenthal from taking any further action against the district until their lawsuit is settled. The motion, however, was denied, according to an order filed in federal court Tuesday.

The judge - A. Wallace Tashima - also ruled on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in its entirety filed on behalf of Huppenthal.

Tashima ruled the case would go on, but dismissed claims filed by the teachers, saying they had no standing in the case because they could not prove that they would suffer irreparable harm.

While the teachers argued that they would lose their jobs if the program is eliminated, the judge stated it was possible the district could choose to retain them and assign them to teach other classes.

Tashima will hear, however, claims from at least one student identified as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The student has registered to take Mexican American Studies courses and will not be able to do so now that the courses have been eliminated.

Reporter Carman Duarte contributed to this story. Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175.