Public demands stop to exploitation of TUSD students, others hold “teach-in”

Since the decision by the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board to suspend the district’s illegal Mexican American Studies program, political operatives have been hard at work creating political drama using young students as the props. Today, Roberto “Dr. Cintli” Rodriguez and others, put on a show for approximately 6 students who attended the Mexican American Studies Student teach-in, at the University of Arizona, from 11 to noon, in the Chavez building.

Cintli, who has an economic and political interest in the TUSD program, announced to the room that he was told by TUSD teachers that the mostly junior high students, in the University’s classroom, had been suspended from school for their participation in earlier protests. He claimed that the TUSD teachers sought his help because “the students wanted to learn, they want to go to school but they’re being prevented.” Cintli told KVOA News, “So I said, ‘why don’t you tell them to come here, I have two classes and I’ll teach them.”

At the same time, growing concern for the students was evident in a letter, with 138 co-signers, which was sent to the TUSD Superintendent and Governing Board. The letter was in response to the fact that TUSD students were encouraged to attend the “teach-in” to hear “Wakefield Middle School and Pueblo H.S. students” address the “crisis at TUSD regarding the recently suspended MAS program,” as well as participating in walkouts and sit ins.

“Since the action by the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board to suspend the district’s Mexican American Studies classes, efforts to exploit TUSD and college age students by public employees and/or political operatives have increased. Other than requests by Governing Board member Michael Hicks and a handful of powerless employees in the district, there has been little done to protect the younger vulnerable students from being used for as “poster children” for adults’ political and economic agendas.”

Wakefield Middle school students are usually between the ages of 11 to 13 years old. Parents reported that the administration at Wakefield attempted to protect, and in some cases discipline students, but was prevented from doing so by the district’s central administration.

In an interview with KGUN 9, Governing Board member Hicks spoke about his concerns for the students’ safety. Adelita Grijalva expressed support for the protests.

The use of students has become more brazen and the treatment has become more aggressive. KGUN News Director Forrest Carr wrote of an incident one of his reporters had with the students on their Monday walk out this week. He wrote that “the atmosphere has turned hostile, personal, and paranoid, with militaristic overtones.”

“The word was out: chanting is good, dialogue is not. During the march Valerie tried several times to engage students in the same way she had done before. Student after student turned her down. One student who did try to say something to Valerie got a rude surprise: a classmate physically jerked him from behind, nearly pulling him off his feet, then shoved him aside and placed his own body between the reporter and the student. He couldn’t have done a better job of blocking and tackling if he’d been playing for the Giants,” Carr wrote about the new tactics employed by students.

The Brown Berets accompanied the students, and Carr described them as “a handful of community activists dressed in Che Guevara style revolutionary garb were on hand to escort the marchers. They were there, they explained, for the safety of the students. Whatever alleged security threat the Brown Berets were worried about, clearly it wasn’t the possibility that students attempting to talk to the media might be manhandled by fellow classmates.”

Raza propagandist David Morales offered an explanation as to why the students may have been hostile to the media they usually invite to every event, “Chicano students don’t trust the local media for example when a person wears brown khakis and a beret, they are wearing “revolutionary garb. Yet how many times do the media refer to Junior ROTC high school students are dressed up as soldiers, as killing machines, as those ready to take orders to kill even if that means overthrowing a democratically elected leader in Latin America.”

TUSD staff has reported that their concerns have been ignored. As a result, public schools advocates and concerned adults addressed those issues in their letter, “It is our understanding that employees and district insiders’ reports of the recruiting efforts by adults and concerns for student safety have been mostly ignored. They have reported that fliers have been distributed on campus announcing off-campus Ethnic Studies classes offered by University of Arizona employees, and one member of administrative staff reported that some students marching to the district offices along 22nd Street stumbled into the street and were nearly hit by oncoming traffic. The administrative staff person reported that he saw Tucson Police Department personnel and no district security.”

The letter concluded with a request that Superintendent Huppenthal and attorney general Tom Horne conduct an investigation “the actions of adults and their exploitation of students, including the contribution to the delinquency of minors. Despite the fact that they are aware of the on, and off, campus activities by adults to recruit the students for the protests, the district has done nothing to safeguard children but has taken substantial steps to secure their own central offices.”