Last Friday, January 9th, 2015, just one week after Arizona’s state superintendent John Huppenthal issued yet another ban on Ethnic Studies classes in TUSD, an Ethnic Studies Now summit was held at Mission High School in San Francisco as hundreds of scholars gathered before the Ninth Circuit hearing on January 12th to determine whether Arizona has the constitutional right to ban Mexican American Studies in Tucson.
Today we hear from the plaintiffs, two courageous Chicanas who were denied access to Mexican American Studies classes in TUSD.
Korina Lopez is now at the University of Arizona, but when it was time for her to take the MAS courses she was denied because TUSD banned them almost exactly three years ago on January 10th, 2012.
While the damage done to Korina is irreparable since she is no longer a TUSD student, she became a plaintiff years ago so that her future students, such as Maya Arce, could take the classes that have been proven successful that were banned for her.
Maya Arce should be taking MAS classes this Fall as she enters her junior year at Tucson High School. To make the injustice against Chicanas even worse, this is just the third of the obstacles she has had to endure just to get educated in TUSD.
As a sophomore Maya, who already has college credits, was denied access to AP Spanish 7-8 which the principal of Tucson High School at the time cancelled because they were too “exclusive”, but what do you expect at a high school that is over 70% Latino? Adding injury to insult, the principal allowed AP French 7-8 to be taught.
Tucson High School also has a world-renowned mariachi program that Maya is a part of. Yes even as a sophomore she can speak two languages fluently, sing with an angelic voice, take college-level classes including AP Calculus next year, and thus it is no wonder that the state of Arizona sees students such as Maya as a major threat to their hegemony that must be stopped.
For the Fall Semester last year, the mariachi class had no permanent teacher and the students had to teach themselves, which they have done so in preparation for multiple concerts including a national conference they are attending this semester. The excuse given was that a certified teacher could not be found, even though football and basketball coaches can receive emergency certification when needed, and this excuse is more egregious considering that not even the newly appointed principal of Tucson High School, a non-bilingual person from the Midwest, did not have the necessary certification herself.
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TUSD has a chance to remedy some of this injustice by allowing Maya to take MAS classes this Fall, but the current superintendent and school board have done nothing to take TUSD in that direction. In fact, the TUSD Superintendent HT Sanchez has agreed with the state superintendent that “changes will be made” in order to bring the already watered-down curriculum into compliance with White Supremacy that fears Latinos getting educated about their history and literature.
Just as John Huppenthal followed in his predecessor’s path and banned Ethnic Studies in TUSD as his last act in office, HT Sanchez is following in his predecessor’s path (John Pedicone) in appeasing white supremacy with compromises that come at the expense of the education of Latinos in proven programs that work.
Fighting for these two plaintiffs is civil-rights attorney Richard Martinez who works pro bono and indeed has put a lot of his own money and resources into this battle.
Above he describes the current status of the case and why we are all here at the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Martinez was the first attorney to file a challenge to SB1070, a law of which most of it has been dismantled at this same Court of Appeals.
Now Richard Martinez is here representing the challenge of the constitutionality of another bill that was passed by Arizona during the hateful Spring of 2010; HB2281, now ARS 15-112, that gave one person, the state superintendent, to ban any course they do not like. This law was written to target TUSD, and it has only been applied to TUSD, which is itself unconstitutional.
Martinez has also worked pro bono on behalf of UA Professors Drs. Roberto Rodriguez and Lydia Otero in addition to the students that were arrested during a sit-in at a visit by Tom Horne in Tucson after HB2281 passed. Targeted for retaliation, Richard’s own son, MAS teacher Rene Martinez, was fired by TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone in 2012 after the MAS program was banned.
For video of the Ninth Circuit hearing on Monday, click here.