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Aug 10, 2011 8:50 PM

Man with knife stopped outside TUSD board meeting

TUCSON-Security at TUSD school board meetings is under scrutiny after a man tried to carry a knife into Tuesday night's board meeting.

The man was allowed into the meeting after he took his knife to his car.

TUSD governing board security has been an issue since April when students who support the district's ethnic studies program took over a board meeting and chained themselves together.

Since then security officers check all audience members with a handheld metal detector. They say that's how they discovered John White's knife.

Jeff Coleman, TUSD's Director of School Safety, says, "He didn't tell us what was in his pocket when our magnetometer hit on it. And we asked him and he said he didn't have anything. And then we asked him again and he produced a large folding knife. And we told him he would have to go put it in his car because you're not allowed to come into the board meeting with a weapon."

Coleman says White complied then came to the meeting where he spoke out against ethnic studies.

TUSD Governing Board Member Adelita Grijalva says White flipped his middle finger at board members.

Then, she says, he then ranted against her and her father, former board member and current U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva.

Grijalva says, "It's one thing for someone to say disparaging things about you. I'm sitting at that chair and I understand that. It's another to say disparaging things about my father who hasn't been in that chair for 20 years."

Should TUSD change its security? Grijalva doesn't think so.

She says, "Ironically I was going to ask that security be decreased because I think we have an excess of security."

TUSD's Board President Mark Stegeman believes security is adequate. He's under fire for not stopping the speaker. Next time he says he will.

Stegeman says, "He was making remarks that were inflammatory and racially tinged. And he was making personal comments about a board member and her family. And that's pretty far over the line."

Security director Coleman thinks current security works well. He says since May several people have been caught carrying knives as they headed into board meetings.

John White declined to talk on TV. But he told News4 over the phone that he was never a threat. He says he carries a pocket knife everywhere and forgot he had it.

White denies his obscene hand gesture was directed at the school board. And he insists everything he said about ethnic studies is true. He believes it teaches students to hate white people.

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