Finally, after about three years of MAS destruction by the local TUSD school board in response to the racist state law that gives one person the power to ban Ethnic Studies, the largest school district in Southern Arizona finally did something right that may be the first step in bringing back the banned Mexican American Studies program.
TUSD just appointed former MAS teacher Lorenzo Lopez as director of the “culturally relevant” courses, the classes that were created under federal desegregation court order to replace the MAS classes. Lopez spoke last Friday at the Ethnic Studies Now summit at Mission High School in San Francisco, and you can see him for yourself in the video above.
Lopez is in a tough spot right now, because he knows how to have a program that is proven to be successful, but he must work under a Latino superintendent HT Sanchez who is trying to appease the state and who has admitted that changes will be made in order to come to a compromise. The question becomes what will Sanchez agree to change, either in the curriculum or in the powerful way his teachers are effectively working to educate TUSD students, that will strip even more away from an already stripped-down curriculum that began under his predecessor John Pedicone.
Lopez is also in a powerful spot right now, potentially at least. His daughter Korina is one of the plaintiffs on the Save Ethnic Studies case that was just heard at the Ninth Circuit on Monday, January 12th, 2015. If this case is successful, then the Ethnic Studies ban, known as HB2281 as the bill and now ARS 15-112 as a state law, then this state law will be nullified because it is unconstitutional. Already one of the four provisions of the state law has been ruled unconstitutional in federal court.
Where does TUSD head from here?
What this means is that there are two ways that TUSD can proceed in the positive direction.
- HT Sanchez can decide to fight any state sanctions in state court, but this time keeping up the fight beyond the lowly Administrative Law Judge which does not even issue an official ruling but rather an opinion that gets decided by the state superintendent anyways. This fight could keep these classes, as is, for another school year and sends a powerful message to the nation that TUSD and HT Sanchez are joining in the fight to save Ethnic Studies rather than cowering away as it has for the past three years.
- HB2281 can be ruled unconstitutional, and thus any interference from the state immediately disappears, and not only can these culturally relevant classes continue, but a return of the MAS program can take place to right these evil wrongs perpetuated by an unconstitutional state law targeting Mexican Americans in Tucson.
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There is a good chance that the Ninth Circuit will not rule before the 60-day deadline imposed by the state (due in early March) to change the classes, which were determined to promote the overthrow of the US Government because of the use of lyrics by Rage Against the Machine by one teacher in one classroom. This sets up TUSD for a $1 million a month fine because the freedom-loving Republicans up in Phoenix don’t see how their Big Brother form of censorship applies to non-white people.
But the federal court should rule by this summer or autumn, which is long enough for the TUSD appeals in state court to keep the classes alive. We already know Lorenzo Lopez is not afraid of standing up to John Huppenthal, as he did with his daughter when the state superintendent visited Tucson in the video below.
Either way there is lots of potential for justice to return to TUSD now that Lorenzo Lopez is in charge of the classes. I trust that he will do the right thing and this is a pivotal moment when we can all come together to work for the return of MAS classes in TUSD.
It all depends on what moves HT Sanchez decides to take TUSD in; he will either be a Pedicone-like compromiser who works against his directors in charge of these classes or Sanchez will be like those civil rights heroes you read about in books that challenge racism and do not back down from being on the right side of history. Something for HT Sanchez to think about on this MLK weekend…
“They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”
– Lorenzo Lopez.