May 7, 2012 7:20 PM
TUCSON - The U.S. Department of Education is evaluating whether to investigate allegations the Tucson Unified School District has been discriminatory in the way it handled the debate over the cancellation of the Mexican American Studies program.
Silverio Garcia, Jr., the executive director of the Civil Rights Center in Phoenix, filed the complaint.
A spokesman for the Department of Education released a portion of the complaint that reads: "that it would investigate allegations that the Tucson Unified School District discriminated against Latinos on the basis of national origin by attempting to limit their participation at Board meetings of particular interest to the Latino community, and that the District discriminated against national origin minority individuals on the basis of their limited English proficiency by failing to provide them with meaningful access to District Board meetings, the District's website, and Board policies that are available to non-LEP individuals."
Raul Aguirre from the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board supports the basis for the complaint. He says the district recognized the public interest into the cancellation of the MAS program but did not provide a large enough venue for people to participate in dialogue over the subject matter. According to Aguirre, the district no longer provides translators in its meetings, "so yeah, many of the students have Spanish language dominant parents that should know what's going on. That should be opened up to them as well."
But Dr. Mark Stegeman, who has served on the TUSD governing board for four years, says the basis for the complaint is bogus, "We really went to the very ends to hear absolutely everyone. And of course it doesn't make any difference what their age or ethnicity is; anyone who wants to talk can talk."
Over the phone Garcia told News 4 he would hold a press conference Tuesday at 5:15 prior to the TUSD governing board meeting.
Also on Tuesday evening the Department of Justice will be holding a community forum to discuss the district's federal desegregation order. Aguirre said when the MAS program was cancelled, it raised questions about whether or not TUSD would be able to remain in compliance with the order. The forum is scheduled for Tuesday, May 8th at 5:30 p.m. at the Chicanos Por La Causa Youth Center on Fort Lowell Road.