May 13, 2010 7:26 AM
TUCSON - The Governor's signature on a bill to stop TUSD's ethnic studies program was the center of debate in Tucson. The law essentially bans schools from grouping, or teaching students based on their ethnic backgrounds. State School Superintendent Tom Horne has been pushing for this ban, for two years, saying it divides students by race.
Students disagree, and while Horne was in Tucson today holding a news conference in response to the measure, some students got up and walked out of class in protest. But those student protests were just the start of things. Other protests took place at the spot Horne addressed reporters. It began as a peaceful protest, students and community members want chicano studies to remain in Tucson schools, saying it benefits kids and promotes critical thinking.
"We love these classes and we're doing this out of love and not of anger or hatred for anybody," says a student named Erin.
They gathered at the state education office on Stone, while upstairs behind closed doors, Horne spoke to the press. Horne says classes designed for students of a particular ethnic group promotes a climate of fear and a dysfunction education. He and deputy superintendent Margaret Dugan showed a picture recently published in the Los Angeles Times of TUSD students at a rally, before the bill was signed into law Tuesday.
"The class itself is just one piece. But when you have students wearing brown shirts, bandanas, and sunglasses, this is serious. We are teaching kids to hate the very country they are living in," says Dugan.
As the press conference wrapped up, the number of protestors grew. About three dozen, refusing to leave, so at five o'clock when the building was to close, officials tell News 4 that 13 people were arrested and charged for criminal trespassing.
After being detained for about an hour, Erin and friends were released. Does she regret it?
"No. Would you do it again? Yes," said Erin.
Districts like TUSD can appeal the mandate, which goes into effect December 31st.