Some complain they were not allowed to ask questions at event
About 70 Tucson High Magnet School students took off their overshirts and displayed pro-Latino T-shirts in protest of a speech given Friday by Margaret Garcia-Dugan, a Republican and the state’s deputy superintendent of public instruction.
Slogans on the T-shirts included: “You can silence my voice but not my spirit,” “Prop 203 is anti-Latino” and “English only is anti-Latino.” Others stuck blue tape over their mouths. Some raised their right arms in protest. Most stood silently during the speech. When asked to sit down, they turned around and walked out of the assembly after Garcia-Dugan had stopped speaking.
Nine-hundred students attended the assembly.
Garcia-Dugan was invited to the school because of last month’s speech by Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America. During her speech, Huerta said “Republicans hate Latinos” and touched on other hot-button issues such as gay marriage and abortion.
State law prohibits officials from using public school resources to influence the outcome of political campaigns.
Garcia-Dugan spoke about the importance of getting both sides of an issues, making your own decision and avoiding stereotypes.
She also spoke about the values instilled upon her by her father and about the importance of giving the AIMS test to English Language Learner students.
Tucson high student Arnold “X” Montiel said inviting Garcia-Dugan, who is a Latina, “was very disrespectful to Dolores Huerta. The school has discredited her and everything she has said.” Montiel was the first of the students to stand in protest as Dugan began speaking about her educational philosophy.
A news release issued under the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (student Latino group) letterhead stated that some Tucson High students felt they deserved the right to ask questions at the assembly.
“We stand by Dolores Huerta in the comment she made regarding the Republican agenda,” the statement read. “We believe that the Republican agenda is ANTI-LATINO! This day provides evidence of this because we … were silenced. We were NOT given the opportunity to ask questions of the very people who govern our educational system.”
Principal Abel Morado said a question-and-answer session was not offered under a mutual agreement between him and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne because of time constraints.
Monyee Fung, the Tucson High senior called to testify in front of a legislative committee last month after Huerta’s speech, said she enjoyed Garcia-Dugan’s speech, but thought the protesters were out of line.
“They have their right to protest, but that wasn’t very respectful,” Fung said. “I listened to the whole Dolores Huerta speech without being disrespectful.”
Fung told Republican lawmakers that she was forced to listen to Huerta’s speech last month and was not allowed to leave after Huerta’s “Republicans hate Latinos” comment.
“Overall I thought the audience was respectful, even those protesting,” said Adelita Grijalva, governing board president for the Tucson Unified School District. “We need to listen to opinions that we don’t necessarily agree with.”
Morado said he was not aware of a planned protest and that he thought it was disrespectful.
“I wanted the courtesy of understanding what they were going to do and why they were going to do it,” Morado said. “I probably would have tried to talk them out of it. It’s important more than anything else to show respect and courtesy to our guests.”
He also said that he felt no pressure to hold the assembly after being called to testify before the same legislative committee that Fung did.
“I don’t have a problem with political speakers on campus,” Morado said. “These kids are in the process of learning and that process can sometimes be messy. I think what’s going on at Tucson High is education.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who watched both Garcia-Dugan’s speech and the protest from Tucson High’s stage, agreed.
“I think it turned out to be a good opportunity for education,” he said.
The students, even those protesting, were not disruptive, he said.
Garcia-Dugan “was able to give her speech, the others were able to listen,” he said.