FULL EPISODE: “Banned in Arizona” from PBS’ Need to Know

Today PBS’ Need to Know premiered “Banned in Arizona.”

Carlos Galindo

Here is the full episode and its official episode description: “This week “Need to Know’ travels to Tucson, Arizona, where a years-long dispute over a Mexican-American studies program has tensions high; supporters say it has helped re-engage at risk students and improved their test scores. Opponents contend it encourages subversive thinking. Claudio Iván Remeseira on the future of ethnic studies.”

NATIONWIDE CALL FOR ACTION: Help Bring Back Chicano Studies in Tucson!


One of the most important parts of the federal desegregation court order on Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) is the new Unitary Status Plan (USP) which is being worked on right now.

Over the next three days, ending at midnight on November 28th, 2012, the public nationwide has an important role to play, and that is to comment on the USP.
The USP provides a clear path for the return of MAS classes and its director Sean Arce under Section V.C.: Student Engagement and Support. To learn more about how exactly this USP lays out this new plan, read this article here.

What is important now and how  can get involved is to go to the following link and comment at the bottom of the page and select Section V.C. as the section you are providing feedback on. These comments go straight to the Special Master and WILL be taken into account when he makes his final decision.

The Special Master Willis Hawley is a university professor and loves details, so if you would like to write a longer message to him with references and citations you can do so by sending your message via email to [email protected] or via USPS to USP Comments, P.O. Box 41358, Tucson, AZ 85717-1358.

Remember, however, that the deadline is this Wednesday at 11:59pm.

Every professor, postdoc, graduate student, teacher, student and parent out there from around the country who is interested in education, Ethnic Studies, Chicano Studies, and the future of educating Latinos should submit a comment. It can be as simple as saying that you want MAS and its director to be returned. Also demand a RETURN OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION. Many of those messages will speak volumes, and will make difference!

¡Sí se puede!

Yellow Journalism Rules as Tensions Rise in Tucson Over TUSD and MAS Program

This week, the Tucson Unified School District, which gained national attention when TUSD school board member Michael Hicks appeared on "The Daily Show" to discuss why the board had decided to suspend the district's Mexican American Studies (MAS) program, held another public board meeting this past Monday. The official accounts from local news outlets chronicled pretty basic information about a shift in the MAS program:

The appointment of TUSD's new Mexican American Student Services director was made with little backlash Monday as a crowd of program supporters sat quietly in the Governing Board meeting room. Maria Figueroa was voted in 4-1, with board member Adelita Grijalva dissenting.

"I continue to oppose the changes that have been made to Mexican American Studies – the elimination of courses and the change in direction that appointing this director will make in this department," Grijalva said.

Changes to the department specify that it no longer administer courses – which were found to be in violation of state law – and instead focus on supporting Hispanic students to eliminate disparities in achievement, discipline, special education placement, grade retention and placement in special programs.

However, in the world of online Tucson, there is a contradicting (and poorly reported) story from the Arizona Daily Independent (ADI) claiming that Hicks was assaulted by Sean Arce, the former director of the MAS program, inside the school building where the meeting took place on Monday evening.

A video from The Three Sonorans blog includes footage of the Monday meeting at the end of a 17-minute video of events surrounding the first two days of Freedom Summer 2012, a movement in Tucson that is calling attention to the issues surrounding TUSD and Tucson. In the interest of setting the background for this post, we created a video of the Three Sonorans clips chronicling the Monday protests at the TUSD board meeting and the confrontation between Hicks and protesters. Here it is:

Hiding behind a loose form of "independent journalism" that would make even Breitbart sound like a Pulitzer Prize winner, today the ADI's story was shared on Facebook by Tucson conservative radio talk show host Garret Lewis. Within minutes of posting the following public Facebook post, one person was already calling out Lewis for sharing such a highly inaccurate and biased story. The news about such a false report began to spread.

Under the headline: "TUSD board meeting 'storm' protest fizzles," the ADI story proceeded to pretty much violate every basic tenet of journalism and embarrassed any journalist who believes in solid independent fact-checking and reporting. Let's just say that we cringed when we read it. Journalism 101 is not that hard to learn and independent journalists should try to practice it more often.

Here is an excerpt of the report. (Note: the original "report" by the ADI did not include the detailed video footage by The Three Sonorans, which eventually was added to the end the post. We are wondering if the ADI poster even saw the video before filing story.)

Former Mexican American Studies Director, Sean Arce accompanied by a group of about 15 college age and older adults set upon TUSD Governing Board member Michael Hicks during a recess in the meeting of the district’s governing Board.

A video by a racist blogger known as the Three Sonorans clearly shows Arce with Hicks inside the building as Hicks was returning to the meeting.

According to various sources, Arce confronts Hicks and chest bumped him while insulting Hicks. Hicks stood his ground, while security looked on. At the time, Arce questioned Hicks’ intelligence while stupidly assaulting Hicks a second time. Hicks did not seek the assistance of security, and will not press charges against the 6’4’ former college football player.

During the takeover of he board meeting last spring, Arce assaulted a member of the public twice. Charges were not pressed against Arce in an effort to keep already high tensions from getting higher according to the victim.

The Board voted 4-1 last night to hire Maria Figueroa, former principal at Toleson, to replace the controversial Arce. Adelita Grijalva was the dissenting vote.

The district opted to not renew Arce’s contract as the Director of the MAS program last spring. Instead they offered him another position in the district, but he refused to accept the offer.

According to various sources, a group of thugs or “protesters” were planning a “storm.” They hurled epithets and accusations at Hicks during the “peaceful” protest.

Participants in the “storm” had brought water bottles into the boardroom. It is believed that the protest was called off when Hicks began taking pictures of the wannabe “storm” from his position at the dais.

Again, we are wondering if ADI (and Lewis) even saw the Three Sonorans video. Was it clear that a "6’4’ former college football player" had chest bumped Hicks (even at 4:35 of the video that we produced, there is no clear evidence of anything)? Did they not see the security guards and Tucson police with Hicks and the protesters? Did they not hear what Hicks was saying? Also, we are still wondering where the "thugs" are in the video?

Were people shouting? Yes. Were people cursing? Yes. But the question for us is very simple: why did Hicks come out there in the first place? From the video we saw, the protesters were indeed angry (it was a public meeting that they were not allowed to attend and there were barricades and armed police), but they got much angrier when Hicks showed up. Why did Hicks even show up? What was he trying to prove?

Lewis spent part of his Thursday show basing his "facts" on the ADI story. The following podcast covers his thoughts, starting around the 14-minute mark.

It seems like we are not the only ones who are questioning Lewis' false report. Tucson Weekly also wrote about the incident: 

…local right-wing media want you to know something else about Tucson Unified School District board member Michael Hicks — he was assaulted by former Mexican-American studies students, teachers and supporters at the TUSD special board meeting, Monday, July 2.

However, that's is a complete lie. Loretta Hunnicutt's Arizona Daily Independent and KNST's Garret Lewis described an incident between Hicks and MAS supporters that absolutely didn't happen.

They are right about one thing — Tucson Police Department officers working security during the meeting stood by, escorted him outside and stood right next to Hicks as he took a break to taunt students…

Before the special meeting started, MAS supporters were there as part of a Freedom Summer kick-off — a month long project with events and actions led by organizers and Chicano studies professors from Michigan. Organizers and artists from across the country are spending their July in Tucson for actions and other programs in support of MAS. This support also includes canvassing specific neighborhoods to engage voters on TUSD board elections and MAS.

During an executive session, Hicks walked out and stood on the wheelchair ramp that put him above the students and supporters. Some students chanted Rosa Clarks, and Hicks began to taunt students and jeer at them, while TPD officers stood by.

As Hicks went inside, he turned back to taunt students one more time. Inside, former MAS director Sean Arce told Hicks that the people he was making fun of are his constituents and he invited Hicks to sit down for a conversation away from the cameras and crowd. Sean never threatened him or pushed his chest into Hicks — although Hicks wagged his finger and looked like he was about to do more.

However, this morning, Arce or others aren't talking about pressing charges against Hicks for attempted assault or assault. Take a look at the Three Sonorans video. Toward the end, you see video of what occurred outside the admin building and it ends with a photo that captures what took place. You can see more of what took place that night right here. Thugs? Who are the real thugs here?

I have a call out to School Safety & Security Director Jeff Coleman, as well as TPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Maria Hawke asking why Hicks was allowed and escorted outside to taunt students and supporters? I'm also waiting for Hicks to respond to an e-mail asking why he claims he was assaulted that night.

So, yes, right now in Tucson, up is down and down is up. In the meantime, it is clear that tensions continue to rise, and misinformation is trying to be communicated to the public. There is no real journalistic proof that ADI's account is correct. In fact, it is just one account of one person who didn't even do basic journalism (get two sources, get a quote, talk to the people being accused and those who are making the accusations). That is not how you report real events, especially when so much is at stake.

We also reached out to both Hicks and TUSD today comment. If they respond to us, we will share their responses.

As the US DOE’s Office of Civil Rights Files a Complaint Against TUSD, Tensions Continue to Mount

Last week the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights filed a complaint against the governing board of the Tucson Unified School District, the latest in a series of events that continue to gain national attention, from book bans to Daily Show appearances of TUSD board members.

Photo: Fernanda Echavarri

Here is what the Arizona press is saying about the complaint, as well as a local news segment:

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is investigating TUSD's treatment of Latinos at Governing Board meetings.

A complaint filed against the district alleges that it discriminated against Latinos by attempting to limit their participation at board meetings that have been of particular interest to the Latino community.

It has also been alleged that the Tucson Unified School District discriminated against minority individuals with limited English proficiency by failing to provide them with access to district board meetings, the district's website and board policies. The Tucson Unified School District confirmed Friday that it received the complaint, but said it had been forwarded to outside counsel for review, as is district practice with these type of complaints.

The district had no further comment, said TUSD spokeswoman Cara Rene.

Further details about the allegations, to include who filed the complaint, were not available as the investigation is ongoing, the U.S. Department of Education said Friday. According to the Three Sonorans blog, the complaint was filed by the nonprofit Civil Rights Center Inc., which is headed by Silverio Garcia Jr.

Efforts to reach Garcia on Friday were unsuccessful. Phone numbers associated with Garcia were disconnected and a website connected to the Civil Rights Center of Phoenix did not work.

The tension continues to mount at TUSD, so much so that Three Sonorans founder DA Morales, a fervent critic of the TUSD board, made his first public comments in front of the TUSD board. The video is below, but we shared the following words that Morales said at the end of his remarks:

"You guys are going to go down in history, you know what's going to happen, we've seen this history before, the Office of Civil Rights comes in, this is like the Deep South. And you guys are in charge of it, and you guys are going to go down."

Three Sonorans: Arizona AG Tom Horne to Speak at Fundraiser for Lawsuit Against MAS Program

We will call the AG's office tomorrow to confirm that Tom Horne did indeed attend a legal fund fundraiser as a public offcial, but for now we will post what The Three Sonorans wrote this afternoon:


While the top lawyer in the state finds himself under an FBI investigation, the Attorney General of Arizona, Tom Horne, is helping raise money to support a million dollar lawsuit against TUSD-MAS’s Sean Arce and Jose Gonzales.

The John Ward million-dollar lawsuit against Sean Arce and Jose Gonzales also includes their wives’ assets, both of whom are also TUSD teachers, including Norma who is also an MAS teacher.

In addition to this million dollar lawsuit, all three of these MAS teachers may not even be working at TUSD next year as their contracts are not renewed by the top MAS-destroyer of them all, SALC’s John Pedicone.

TUSD Spokesperson: Hicks Acted as an Individual on @TheDailyShow, Not as a Board Member

In response to last night's The Daily Show segment, where Tucson Unified School District board member Michael Hicks offered some rather bizarre interpretations as to why TUSD decided to ban the academically successful Mexican American Studies program, a spokesperson for TUSD emailed a brief statement, when we requested comment from TUSD and its superintendent Dr. John Pedicone. The following is the email response we got from Cara Rene, TUSD's Director of Communication and Media Relations:

Michael Hicks is a publicly-elected official and was speaking as an individual. His comments do not represent the TUSD governing board or the school district.

If you want further comments, you will need to seek them from Mr. Hicks.

We followed up with a clarification to the email we received from Ms. Rene, reminding her that we did get a comment from Hicks, but that we would welcome additional comment from Dr. Pedicone or any other members of TUSD's governing board. As of this initial posting, we have not received any additional responses from either TUSD or Hicks.

As for the national TV appearance by Hicks, we have this question, which we posed to Rene: If Hicks were speaking as an "individual," why did the segment identify him as a school board member of TUSD? The fact remains: a publicly elected official entrusted to best serve the education of children in Tucson offered rather questionable explanations as to why the MAS program was being banned. According to the interview, Hicks based his vote on "hearsay" and seemed a bit troubled that TUSD teachers were tempting their students with free burritos. Finally, besides calling Rosa Parks "Rosa Clarke" on national TV, Hicks also freely admitted that the Arizona ethnic studies ban was passed only for the MAS program in Tucson. Other similar ethnics studies programs are still active.

School boards and school leaders are public servants of the community. We find it puzzling that in this case, because a comedy news show portrayed the district in a negative light, TUSD leaders choose not to comment nor offer additional explanations about an interview on national TV. Hicks, as the member of a publicly elected school board (see the screen shot above) presented bizarre and unfounded opinions about how a program that has helped Arizona students is being dismantled because of a few publicly elected officials don't agree with the program's vision and used the power of the Arizona legislature to create division in their own community.

We will welcome any official TUSD response at any time and we promise to publish it unedited, but right now, avoiding the issue only makes it worse, in our opinion.

In Email to the Rebels, TUSD School Board Member Hicks Slams @TheDailyShow Segment on Ethnic Studies

The following is the email response we received from Tucson Unified School District school board member Michael Hicks regarding his appearance with Al Madrigal on last night's The Daily Show, which covered the recent controversy surrounding the ban on Mexican American Studies in Tucson:


With all due respect, the Daily Show is a money making satirical show. It is not a news show. They do not present the complete remarks of their guests. They slice and dice footage to serve their need to entertain.

I went on this show to talk about the Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes. I was mislead by the "reporter" and was told that they were interested in a real interview. It was nothing of the sort.

It is unfortunate that the Daily Show opted to amuse rather than inform.

And for the record, you can see where they spliced my comments in several areas during this segment. I can assure you that my statements were taken out of context Many of my answers were altered to suit their agenda.

What I find more troubling is that there are those who will believe that what they saw on the Daily Show is accurate and complete news.

These individuals will then most likely base their judgments on inaccurate information designed specifically to support the view of Daily Show producers.

Real children were being exploited, and the producers of the Daily Show chose to ignore that.

Last Night on @TheDailyShow: Tucson’s Ban on Mexican American Studies

Last night, The Daily Show's Al Madrigal went to Tucson to cover TUSD's Mexican American Studies ban.

Just two words: THANK YOU. Why would Michael Hicks even think that making a Daily Show appearance would be good for him? It wasn't. And now more of the country knows about what is going on in TUSD. (JUNE 21 UPDATE: FYI, the Daily Show no longer is showing the video, but you can catch it here.)


Tell Tucson Elected Officials: MAS Director Sean Arce Should Remain in Current Position


Sean Arce is one of the founders of the successful TUSD MAS Program, and is one of our community's most treasured resources.  He has been a beacon of light, during this time of attack on the Tucson community, and he has risen above the fray to do what he has always done:  educate our children and set them on the path for a successful future. The Tucson community demands that he remain in his position of TUSD MAS Director, and we expect our elected leadership to stand with him, at this critical time, as he has stood with our community and our children.

Call and write the elected officials, below, and let them know that we expect them to:  A)  Sign this petition, and; B)  Call TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone at (520) 225-6000 and demand that he support Sean Arce in his current position of TUSD MAS Director.

U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva:  (520) 622-6788, [email protected]

Supervisor Richard Elias:  (520) 740-8126, [email protected]

Supervisor Ramon Valadez:  (520) 740-8126, [email protected]

City Councilwoman Regina Romero: (520) 791-4040, [email protected]

City Councilman Richard Fimbres:  (520) 791-4131, [email protected]

State Rep. Macario Saldate: (602) 926-4171, [email protected]

State Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales: (602) 926-3278, [email protected]

State Sen. Olivia Cajero-Bedford: (602) 926-5835, [email protected]

State Sen. Linda Lopez: (602) 926-4089, [email protected]



The Librotraficantes Have Arrived in Tucson for a March 17 Rally Against Banned Books

Today, the Librotraficantes have reached their destination: Tucson, Arizona.

The Librotraficantes appeared this morning on local Tucson TV. Here is the recording we made for news gathering purposes since the local TV station doesn't have an embed feature.

"The whole idea is that Arizona legislators tried to erase our history, we've decided to create more and we have created a nationwide movement that know that our culture has been delivered to a test of democracy and it is our turn to define the American dream for everybody," Tony Diaz, founder of the Librotraficantes, said.