The Tucson Unified School District is safe for the time being from any penalties associated with alleged violations of a state law forbidding racially-charged classes.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas and TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said in a news conference today the Department of Education will continue to monitor the school district until the end of the school year and decide where to go from there.
“We’re not quite there yet, there is still work that needs to be done, but we know that we can continue to work together to ensure that TUSD will be in full compliance with the law,” Douglas said.
The alleged violations mostly arise out of the district’s Culturally Relevant Courses, a program that is required under a federal desegregation order. The courses replaced the Mexican American Studies program, which the district disbanded after an administrative law judge upheld findings that the program was in violation of the state law.
Douglas’ predecessor, John Huppenthal, announced in the waning moments of his administration that the district is in violation of the 2010 law. It forbids classes that promote ethnic solidarity, promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or promote resentment towards a race or class of people.
The deadline for coming into compliance was March 4, and the district was in danger of losing up to $50 million of its state funding.
Douglas said the district’s curriculum is in accordance with state law, but that some teachers aren’t following it and some work still needs to be done to correct that.
Huppenthal cited certain materials used in the classroom, such as the song “Take the Power Back” by the rock group Rage Against the Machine and an essay by rapper KRS-One, as violations.
Huppenthal said the song violated the prohibition against the teaching of content that promotes the overthrow of the U.S. government, and the essay, “An Introduction to Hip Hop,” ran afoul of the prohibition against courses that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
Sanchez said neither of those materials are being used in the classroom any longer.
Douglas has taken a much different tone with TUSD than Huppenthal or his predecessor, Tom Horne, both of whom took many opportunities to publicly criticize the district.
Douglas said she wants to expand ethnic studies statewide. She has asked various racial-minority advisory groups to provide ideas to include the studies as part of the history standards and curricula for all Arizona students, regardless of their ethnicity.
She said the state isn’t teaching accurate history if students aren’t exposed to the suffering, trials and triumphs of all ethnics groups that have contributed to the state’s cultural mix.
The announcement came an hour after the first meeting of the newly organized Latino Education Advisory Committee ended.
Douglas’ chief of staff, Michael Bradley, has said she wants to rebuild relations with the Hispanic community that were damaged during the Huppenthal administration.