A Tucson teacher is under investigation after sending sixth-grade students home with an assignment that included lyrics from a rap song depicting drugs, sex, gambling and violence.
The Tucson Unified School District announced it is conducting an investigation after KOLD Channel 13’s Craig Reck reported Monday night that the teacher gave students an assignment to discuss the theme of Ice Cube’s 1993 hit song “It Was A Good Day,” along with other songs.
The song describes a day in the life of the rapper, in which he smokes marijuana, gambles, has sex, gets drunk and none of his friends are killed and he’s not harassed by the police.
“Today I didn’t even have to use my AK. I got to say it was a good day,” Ice Cube says in one line of the song.
Citing privacy issues, TUSD declined to name the teacher, who works at Utterback Middle School, a south-side school with a focus on fine arts, including music, dance and theater.
TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said the material was “absolutely inappropriate” for the grade level and that the teacher will face a disciplinary hearing.
He noted there are three possible levels of discipline: a written warning, an official reprimand or suspension without pay.
While the teacher’s behavior was problematic, it was “significantly below the realm of termination,” Trujillo added. The teacher remains in the classroom.
The kinds of disciplinary infractions that merit immediate removal are physical violence, threats and sexually inappropriate behavior, Trujillo said.
District spokeswoman Karla Escamilla said that although several songs were given to the class to analyze, “It Was A Good Day” is the only song being investigated.
Parents were divided on the decision to send the students home with rap lyrics, according to KOLD’s reporting.
One parent complained that it was inappropriate, while another said they understood the teachers’ desire to connect with students through song.
The district released a statement that read, in part, “Assistant Superintendent Richard Sanchez and Utterback Middle School Principal (Taranika) Sanders are addressing the issue with the teacher in question and making sure the district follows all due process procedures outlined for our employees.”
TUSD Board Member Adelita Grijalva said she didn’t want to judge the teachers’ methods without knowing the full context of the assignment.
But she noted that the teacher was identified as very popular with students, and said using song lyrics to engage students can be a successful teaching method, if it’s done in an age-appropriate way.
“Trying to engage students in having a conversation about the world around them through music and song and lyrics — my best teachers did that kind of thing,” she said.
Grijalva noted that her own daughter is in sixth grade and said if she came home with rap lyrics that the teacher wanted students to analyze, “my hope is I would be open enough to talk to her about the use of language, and whether this is appropriate or not, and whether it speaks to you or not.”