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March 29th, 2012
02:50 PM ET

Stiff security at Tucson school board meetings angers Latinos

Editor's Note: Roberto Rodriguez, the Mexican-American Studies professor who took the photo of Nicolas, has written an opinion piece.  It can be viewed here.

By Thelma Gutierrez and Traci Tamura, CNN

Tucson, Arizona (CNN) - It was the evening of March 13, people lined up outside the Tucson Unified School District office in Tucson, Arizona, to attend a school board meeting. Nine-year-old Nicolas was in line with his teenage sister Juliana, waiting to enter the meeting. Juliana, who is in high school, was there to voice her support for the Mexican-American studies program, which was dismantled this year after it was banned by the state.

One by one, each person had to first go through security screening. It wasn’t until Nicolas, wearing a yellow Batman t-shirt, standing with his legs and arms spread apart while being wanded by an armed security guard, that Roberto Rodriguez, an associate professor of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona, took notice of the process. Rodriguez grabbed his phone and took two photographs of Nicolas going through security.

Rodriguez, who is also a syndicated columnist, says he sent one of the photographs to several colleagues. Before he knew it, the picture went viral. It seemed to strike a nerve with some people, particularly within the Latino community, who say the pictures symbolize what Rodriguez calls an anti-Latino, anti-immigrant atmosphere in Arizona.

He cites the passage of several pieces of legislation in the state: SB 1070, the controversial anti-illegal immigration law, Arizona’s English-only education law, and HB 2281, a law passed in 2010 that prohibits courses aimed at a particular ethnic group, like Mexican-American studies. The program was designed to teach students American history, American government, literature and art through a Mexican-American perspective.

In January, the program was formally dismantled. Tucson school board member Michael Hicks said the board had no choice but to follow state law.

The move angered students and supporters of the program who fought to save it. Last April, a group of high school students took over a school board meeting, chaining themselves to chairs.

Hicks said the current increased security measures at school board meetings are partly in response to the student takeover. He also tells CNN recent tragedies like the 2011 shooting of Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords, and a standoff with an armed man at a Florida school board meeting in 2010, warrant additional security.

The security guards, many of whom are armed, are there to insure the safety of all who attend school board meetings, Hicks said. But some parents, like Tanya Alvarez, who is engaged to Nicolas’ father, aren't convinced. Alvarez says school board meetings are public forums to openly discuss education, and going through security screening is intimidating and might keep families away.

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Filed under: Education • How we live • Latino in America
soundoff (286 Responses)
  1. PEOPLE, IT'S TIME WE WAKE UP. WE NEED TO VOTE.

    If you want your kid to live in a free country, register to vote and vote for what your conscience tells you is right. I don't want my country to become anything that smells like Hitler's little playground. I am a minority, so I will vote against anything that reaks of racism. My statements might sound a bit dramatic. Everybody loves to throw the word Nazi and Hitler against the opposite side. The difference here is that NRA types love their guns and vote Republican. Old school types, bless their grey heads and their old school ways, love to hate and fear minorities, so they vote Republican. Anybody with an issue against minorities votes Republican. Like I said, I am a Hispanic, so I can not afford to vote for people who try to pass laws that make it OK to racially profile me and my kids, who try to scare brown kids out of schools, who try to erase and ban Mexican-American studies, who harrass and oppress minorities. I can not vote for people who call Spanish, the language my mother taught me, the language of the ghetto. I can not vote for someone who tells brown people to self deport. I can not vote for someone who considers education something that only the few should be able to have access to (not uppity blacks or Hispanics, not selfish women). In short, I can not vote for a Republican. People, if you are in any way like me, if you are not a member of the 1% and you don't own two Cadillacs and have friends who own Nascar teams, if you are not racist, then you can not afford not to register to vote and vote these radicals out of office. What other option do loyal, peaceloving, tax paying Americans have? Vote them out of office. Don't let them walk all over you.

    April 3, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. fernace

    Oops, seems I have stumbled upon a "clan" meeting, x-cept for a few posts! I hardly remember the topic for the bombardment of hatred & vitriol! In America- is this really what In America means! I don't Think so! Arizona is a state like many SW states; it has a large Latino population! If the Lege disenfranchises the majority of Any state, that majority will walk on the capital & make itself heard, as has happened in Texas over numerous topics; education, healthcare & immigrant rights! I applaud people everywhere, who stand up for our co.nst.itutional rightsl It's such a patriotic & co.nsti.tutional thing to do! I support OWS & WOW & will join the WOW rally in April! Peace, out!!

    March 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tally-Wacker

    Why can't latinos learn this called safety protocol, they wouldn't be complaining if the security guards caught someone with a weapon. No one is special.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • jwk1

      What's your point?

      April 3, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PEOPLE WAKE UP AND VOTE

    Who do the right wingers want to shove down our throats? Crazies like Bachman and Palin. Sell outs like McCain and Romney. Religious nutballs like Santorum. Hypocrites and dinosaurs in bed with every special interest like Newt. All of them racists. Look to the other side. Which party has always been on the side of the people, of women's rights, gay rights, the rights of minorities? The Democrats. Are they perfect? No, but I would prefer an intelligent Democrat like Hillary Clinton as my commander in chief than a crazy zealot like Santorum advocating trigger happy cowboy interventions against everybody who looks at us the wrong way. We need leaders who are brilliant, not religious nutballs who want to see women pregnant and uneducated. We need intellectuals and social engineers, not demagogues and scaremongers. WAKE UP PEOPLE. STAND UP AND VOTE! LET'S SHOW THESE RACIST ARIZONA and GOP RIGHT WINGERS WE WILL NOT TAKE THEIR FASCISM ANYMORE!

    March 31, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. THE GHOST OF CESAR CHAVEZ

    MINORITIES AND MEMBERS OF THE 99% Lets make sure we put enlightened Democrats in the White House and in every position of power in our nation. Let's make sure we vote and give them a mandate. Let's keep the GOP racists and religious fanatics, the NRA lobbists, the TEA party, the isolationists and hatemonguers and women haters, out of office for the next 100 years. Let's vote them out of power! Power to the people! Down with racist ideologists like Kris Kobach and racist thugs like Joe Arpaio. Down with oppressive governmenors like Janet Brewer of Hate!

    March 31, 2012 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
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