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Jul 18, 2012 6:48 PM

Students protest after TUSD administrator changes tune on MAS books

TUCSON - Some Mexican-American Studies activists are questioning the latest move by a TUSD board member; today they met outside his house to protest his about-face on the controversial issue of banning MAS books.

In 2011, a majority of the TUSD board, including Mark Stegeman, voted to suspend the program and remove the associated books from the classrooms. Copies of the books remained in the TUSD school libraries.

Now Stegeman is calling for those books to be restored, a move the activists call "political pandering in an election year."

The district removed books from classrooms in order to take concrete steps to comply with House Bill 2281, the state law that eliminated TUSD's MAS classes. The books were still available in school libraries. But a group called Tucson Freedom Summer says it's not enough. They even held a news conference in front of the board member's home this afternoon.

"It feels a little bit like an ambush," Stegeman said. "I think if I had posted a message on Facebook inviting the whole world to come to one of their houses and didn't tell them about it I'm not sure how they would feel about that."

"I always opposed it, and I support the bill to repeal it," Stegeman said. "I think it's a vaguely-worded law I think it's an intrusive law."

The activists outside took issue with Stegeman's statements.

"The insults, the emotional and physical harm - now Stegeman conveniently decides to take back his capricious decisions," said activist Alfred Chavez.

"How can anyone put their trust in an elected public official who is going back on such a vital decision that affects the community?" asked Alanna Castro.

Stegeman, for his part, was unphased by the harsh rhetoric.

"I think it's very unlikely that the strong advocates of the program were going to be on my side anyway," he said. "It did persuade them to come to my house and have a party!"

Tune in to News 4 Tucson at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. for a complete report from News 4 Tucson's Sam Salzwedel.

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