/ Modified dec 3, 2014 2:35 p.m.

TUSD’s Mexican American Classes Under State Scrutiny Again

Arizona education officials make surprise visit to “culturally relevant” class at Tucson Unified high school.

tusd 010912 march spotlight TUSD high school students protest in support of Mexican American Studies in 2012.
Fernanda Echavarri

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State education officials made a surprise visit to a “culturally relevant” classroom in Tucson Tuesday, and school officials are worried it would be the beginning of more controversy surrounding Mexican American Studies classes.

Tucson Unified School District shut down its Mexican American Studies classes in 2011 after the state said they violated state law by promoting resentment toward a race and the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Although the state shut the classes down, a federal desegregation order mandated TUSD to teach “culturally relevant courses” that included Mexican American history and culture.

Adelita Grijalva portrait Adelita Grijalva, president of TUSD Governing Board. (PHOTO: AZPM)

The state did not oppose to TUSD’s new curriculum and this academic year some TUSD high schools have been offering those courses as electives.

That could change after the visit from the Arizona Department of Education, said Adelita Grijalva, TUSD governing board president.

“They showed up unannounced at a high school campus,” she said. “They asked for many documents about those classes.”

State education officials confirmed the visit to a culturally relevant class but would not say why.

“If they find us out of compliance, the district is going to have a real serious issue about how the federal desegregation mandate ducktails with the state law that restricts essentially ethnic studies,” Grijalva said.

Also unknown is how Diane Douglas, the newly elected state superintendent of public instruction, will approach this issue, she said.

Douglas steps into office in January, ousting John Huppenthal, an opponent of the now defunct Mexican American curriculum.

“We really have no information on her and have no idea where she’s going to go because her only platform was against Common Core,” Grijalva said.

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