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Jun 26, 2013 2:26 AM by Nathan O'Neal

TUSD seeks public comment on proposed ethnic studies classes

TUCSON - Tucson Unified School District is asking for the public's input on its newly proposed curriculum for "culturally relevant" literature classes.

The state forced the district to ban its ethnic studies courses after a judge found the classes violated state law. Meanwhile, the feds are ordering TUSD to improve the quality of education for minorities as part of its desegregation order.

Maria Teresa Mejia is now a sophomore at the University of Arizona but she said her education while in a Mexican Studies class at Tucson High made a huge impact on her life.

"It teaches you how to be a better person... how to love and respect other people... how to be a part of a community," Mejia said.

She also remembers just how emotional it was when staff came into her classroom and took away those highly contentious books used in ethnic studies classes.

"It really disrupted the kids to see someone that you trust come in and take your education away," Mejia said.

Critics argue the books promote racist ideas while supporters say they teach reality.

"That is the history of this nation," said blogger David Morales. "It's not that you teach it to grow resentment, it's that you teach it so you don't repeat the past."

The newly proposed outline for "culturally relevant" literature classes will teach through the lens of the Latino or Black perspective. However, it does not include any of those highly criticized books.

"The group of teachers, the expert who vetted this curriculum have kept one goal in mind and that is to deliver absolutely the best courses that we can put together and deliver for students," said TUSD Deputy Superintendent Maria Menconi.

The school district has already received input from state and national advisers on the curriculum. The public has through July 8th for the public to comment online before the school board weighs in. The classes will be offered to three or four schools at the beginning of the school year.

"We're going to do this the way that it's supposed to be done. We're going to get plenty of input and we're going to let everybody say their piece," Menconi said.

You can find the curriculum draft and comment here: www.tusd1.org

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