Tucson Unified School District will continue teaching Mexican American and African American studies classes because it is not breaking state laws, TUSD’s superintendent said Monday.
"We feel that we have done everything we need to be in compliance with state law despite its standing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said at a press conference. “We were notified three weeks ago that everything we were doing was in compliance by the deputy superintendent for the Arizona Department of Education.”
But on his last day as state superintendent of public instruction last week, John Huppenthal sent TUSD a six-page letter saying some of its culturally relevant curriculum was in violation of the state law used to shut down the district’s Mexican American studies classes in 2012.
“It doesn’t do me any good to speculate why he would make a statement contrary to what one of his second in command suggested,” Sanchez said. “It could be a parting shot.”
In 2012 TUSD’s governing board voted to shut down the previous Mexican American studies curriculum in fear of losing 10 percent of its funding. The state said the classes violated a state law that prohibits classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” and “promote resentment toward a race.”
Although the state shut the classes down, a federal desegregation order required TUSD to teach “culturally relevant courses” that included Mexican American history and culture.
The state did not oppose TUSD’s new curriculum, and some high schools have been offering the new courses as electives this academic year.
Huppenthal’s complaint included African American studies, the first time the Arizona Department of Education has complained about those classes.
“I haven’t received a letter, an email or a notification or a call to the audience where people have spoken against the African American studies curriculum at all, so I find it peculiar that they would have issues with that at this time,” Sanchez said.
Huppenthal gave TUSD until March 4 to “remove objectionable material from the curriculum,” or lose 10 percent of its monthly state funds.
Sanchez said he is trying to schedule a meeting with Diane Douglas, Arizona’s new superintendent of public instruction.
Douglas could ultimately decide to drop the complaint or fine TUSD.