A Tucson High Magnet School student will tell state lawmakers next week that she was forced by school officials to listen to a pro-immigrant speech.
Senior Mon-yee Fung,17, voluntarily attended an assembly where co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union Dolores Huerta spoke, but could not leave after Huerta began saying “Republicans hate Latinos.”
“I wanted to listen to what they had to say, but all they had to say was hate speak,” said Fung, head of the school’s Teenage Republicans Club. “They’re saying that I don’t like Mexicans or that I don’t try to understand what they’re doing, but I am trying to understand.”
State Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, wants Fung to tell her story to Fox News today at 5 p.m.
“She was forced to listen to a political speech for over 40 minutes,” Paton said. “To me that’s a real problem because we shouldn’t have the schools as a forum for political speech. They should be a forum for education.”
Huerta said she was invited to speak at Tucson High as part of the effort to keep students in school and disagreed with Paton’s assertion that political speech has no place in school.
“This is a terrific opportunity for young people to learn what the democratic process is about, the way that bills are passed,” Huerta said. “I explained this whole procedure to the students.”
Huerta said her “Republicans hate Latinos” comment was based on the number of anti-immigration bills sponsored by Republicans.
“Large numbers of the Republican Party are anti-immigrant or anti-Latino,” she said. “I can justify that.”
Paton sent a letter to Tucson Unified School District officials last week questioning the April 3 assembly and the district’s response to the student walkouts that occurred the week before in protest to proposed immigration law.
He contends that regardless of the topic and which political group is sounding off on an issue, the school is not a place for that to happen.
Tucson High Principal Abel Morado said he was unaware of the incident involving Fung.
“I will take the young lady’s word for it,” he said. “It may have been a supervision issue. We ask teachers to properly supervise their students during an assembly and sit with their class.”
Students were told they could go to the assembly or the library, but the library locked because of miscommunication.
“I did learn after the fact that the library was closed,” Morado said. “It may have been that the librarian chose to go to the assembly. That’s my responsibility.”
Morado said the school is a “wonderful venue” to see the opposing sides of an issue, but acknowledged that no effort has been made on his part to bring in somebody who supports the controversial immigration bill, HR 4437.
“I don’t see that it is my role to turn around and say that “OK, we’ve had this speaker, now let’s turn around and get this speaker,” he said. “If there was somebody in favor of that and they wanted to speak at Tucson High, I wouldn’t oppose that if my students invited them or if my teachers invited them.”
Fung joined the Teenage Republicans Club because she often hears only the liberal side of issues discussed in classrooms at Tucson High.
“I wanted to show the students that there was another side to al the beliefs that the teachers had and were preaching in the classrooms,” she said. “I believe that you shouldn’t only state one side and not state the other at all.”
Morado said that, with a student body of 2,700, he occasionally hears stories similar to Fung’s and that he will spend more time discussing objectivity with his faculty.
“We get those concerns from time to time and I think we get them on both sides of the spectrum,” Morado said. “We want (teachers) to deliver a balanced approach in their curriculum, especially if they are discussing a political issue.”
Flung also said she was asked to remove a poster recruiting young Republicans because it was “too inflammatory.”
The poster read “Be an American, join the Teenage Republican Club.”
Morado said the poster was removed because some thought the implication was that one was not American unless they joined the club.
Fung is worried that her appearance on national television and in front of state legislators next Thursday may cost her friends who think differently than her.
“It’s worth it, because I want them to see that even though I am Republican, I’m still a real person and that I do care about the community,” she said.