TUSD already beginning transition from ethnic studies, program supporters prepare to fight

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Tuesday night's vote by the TUSD governing board wiped out the ethnic studies program.

Now, students and teachers are going through a transition, while supporters gear up for another legal battle.

"You're asking us to suffer in silence, to be quiet?  To die in silence," said an upset ethnic studies supporter at Tuesday night's board meeting.

Outrage was a common sentiment after the TUSD governing board voted to stop offering ethnic studies courses.

"I can tell you right now I will be removing my sons from TUSD," said a father angry over the vote to dismantle ethnic studies.

Wednesday the dust had settled somewhat but changes are in the air. Superintendent John Pedicone says ethnic studies teachers are already reverting to core curriculum.

"So they already have sylibi they already have lesson plans so it will be easier for them to convert from one course to another," said Pedicone.

The courses are gone but the department remains.  Ethnic studies educators will maintain advisory roles.

"They're adults who intervene when students have either academic or discipline issues and they become mentors and models for students in different ways," said Pedicone.

"I think the problem with this program, from my viewpoint, is that there was too much driving one particular viewpoint," said Mark Stegeman.

TUSD Board President Mark Stegeman believes revamped social studies courses will offer a broad perspective without the penalty of violating House Bill 2281, the 2010 law that banned ethnic studies courses statewide in public schools.

Board member Adelita Grijalva was the only dissenting vote.  She pushed for the district to make an appeal.

"If we don't fight this battle, I'm hopeful someone else in the community will," said Grijalva.

That's exactly what the Mexican-American studies advisory board aims to do.

"We have recieved communication from the American Civil Liberties Union, from Maldef," said Mexican-American Studies Chairman Raul Aguirre.

Chairman Aguirre plans to work with those groups who have the funds and the support to fight for appeal.

"Because of the unconstitutionality of the law and the lack of due process of the administrative hearing they feel there may be a strong civil rights litigiation," said Aguirre.

Supporters are also looking ahead to november elections where they hope to elect like-minded board members.

In the meantime, the district is working on creating new courses that will combine core curriculum and some ethnic studies lessons.  They plan to present details on those courses in August.