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Adults used students as pawns in TUSD ethnic studies protest

Adults used students as pawns in TUSD ethnic studies protest

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It is fair to say the situation that occurred at last Tuesday evening's TUSD Governing Board meeting has caused this school district embarrassment.

The entire Tucson community is impacted by this situation and the way we are viewed by people across the country.

My immediate concern focuses on the events that led up to the decision on the part of a number of adults and students who engaged in an action that interfered with the operation of government.

The manner in which it occurred was, to many people inside and outside of the organization, shocking and abhorrent.

While we were fortunate no one was hurt and control was restored without violence, the consequences of the situation are far-reaching. Rest assured the district will make every effort to restore order and hopefully restore confidence over time.

Some would have you believe this action was taken by a group of students who just made a plan to express their dissent. That is not accurate.

It is clear adults both helped to plan and influence the outcome of that night.

If you take a moment to examine the resolution by the student group, Unidos, you will see the demands include issues involving the Mexican-American Ethnic Studies program, the repeal of state laws, school closures and turnaround schools, United Nations human rights and the removal of state governmental officials.

In my opinion, students have been led to believe their basic rights to an honest discussion of their heritage are at risk. Students have been convinced the school district is attempting to eliminate a program that simply tells the truth and this action is associated with concerns about immigration and a broad range of issues at the state and federal levels.

Students have been exploited and are being used as pawns to serve a political agenda that threatens this district and our community. Just as high school and university students led the charge to the Governing Board dais on Tuesday, they are being used to lead the charge for those who wish to make this a civil rights issue.

The simple truth is that one board member suggested having a discussion about changing Mexican American courses from being used to satisfy the state requirement for American Government and American History into electives that will continue to be offered.

Further, he suggested multicultural perspectives be expanded across all courses to provide students with a more open and inclusive curriculum.

None of these ideas are radical and are certainly worthy of consideration.

On Thursday, an open forum was organized by the Metropolitan Education Commission, in concert with the Tucson Police Department, designed to provide students with an opportunity to express themselves.

It was extremely well-run and served to open issues of concern to our youth. The forum worked and people left feeling they had accomplished something important.

Rather than use our children to carry the political mantle for people who are frustrated and angry about highly emotional topics, consideration should be given to having a similar community forum, open to all opinions about issues of concern. That would seem to be the appropriate venue for such a debate.

In the end, if we approach difficult issues with honesty and openness, we teach our children effective lessons in honor and discourse and we become a stronger community as a result.

John Pedicone is superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District. Email him through

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