As was evident last week in Washington DC when hundreds of protesters camped outside the Department of Education for four days, teachers across the country who speak out or don't comply with oppressive, racist policies find themselves out of a job or with their livelihood threatened unless they are complicit in the cultural sterilization and intellectual neutering of students.
Today, we live in a country where public school teachers who are trying to do right by their students, who speak out against injustice, or find innovative and meaningful ways to engage students and broaden their intellectual curiosity in a dignified and respectful manner, are being fired or blacklisted. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.
Students call out school board for racist policies, vow to fight on despite decision
Sean Arce, the director of the embattled Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona was fired last night after a split vote by the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). Students, teachers, and community members gathered before the vote to champion Arce as a vital member of the school district and berated the TUSD board members for targeting Arce for dismissal due to his outspoken support for the ethnic studies program.
MAS supporters chant, interrupting a TUSD Governing Board meeting Tuesday, where the calls echoed with "No justice, no peace, no racist TUSD" and "Whose education? Our education."
Speakers displayed anger, tears, raised voices and sometimes quiet dignity as they pleaded for the board to retain Arce and restore MAS classes, which were eliminated in January.
Michael Corio, the executive director of Tucson's AFSCME union local, decried what he called a "draconian system of justice" in the district, and pledged the support of the union — which represents government workers but not local teachers — for the program.
Erin Cain-Hodge, an alumna of the program, warned board members up for election, "I'd like to let you know that we're coming for you."
Sally Rusk, a teacher at Pueblo Magnet High School, said of Arce, "We're eternally grateful for his commitment to the community."
"There are people in this state who object to students learning their history," said Jerry Horton, speaking quietly. "Not all of them are north of the Gila."
"These young people will win, and we will win with them," he said.
Throughout the meeting, many audience members catcalled at board member Michael Hicks to resign, referencing his recent less-than-stellar appearance on "The Daily Show."
Some held masks of a cartoon of Hicks by artist Arnie Bermudez.
Occasional references to Hicks' "Daily Show" appearance drew wry smiles and chuckles from some board members, including Board President Mark Stegeman and member Miguel Cuevas.
But some audience members pressed their point on a more serious note.
"I believe you prefer our children in prison than graduating from these high schools," said Isabel Garcia.
"Sean Arce should stay and you should leave, Mr. Hicks," she said.
Hicks wasn't the only target. "Who's this guy, Stegeman's pet?" asked Ricardo Bracamonte of Cuevas.
While TUSD officials said Arce's contract was not renewed for budget reason, he said Tuesday night that it was payback for his outspoken support for the program.