More Turmoil Over Mexican-American Studies

     TUCSON (CN) – A critic of Tucson Unified School District’s embattled Mexican-America Studies program claims defenders of the program smeared his name by telling reporters he was fired for cursing at students and slamming books. After the Arizona Legislature singled out the program for elimination last year, 11 teachers sued the state, calling HB 2281 unconstitutional.


     John Ward resigned from Tucson USD in 2006 and has since been an outspoken critic of “Raza Studies.” Ward says he voluntarily quit teaching a class in American history from a Mexican-American perspective in 2002 rather than engage in a political fight with department head Sean Arce and curriculum specialist Jose Gonzalez, both of them defendants in his complaint in Pima County Court, along with Tucson USD.
     Ward claims Arce and Gonzalez were “proselytizing” to students rather than teaching history.
     “From defendant Sean Arce, defendant Jose Gonzalez and [nonparty] Augustine Romero [former head of the department], plaintiff heard racist comments, denial of American sovereignty in the Southwest United States, advocacy for illegal immigration, impugning of police officers and Anglo teachers as racist, and impugning of the Catholic Church as homophobic, among other extreme political views as opposed to American History,” Ward claims.
     After resigning, Ward wrote an op-ed about his experiences teaching for the program, and was interviewed by the national media.
     An “EducationWeek” reporter interviewed him in September 2010. Later, Ward says, he received an email from the reporter “stating that Sean Arce had told her during an interview that one of the reasons John Ward was removed from the Raza Studies class was because he’d used profanity and slammed books in front of students in the class room (See exhibit 6). These statements about plaintiff are false.”
     Ward says that after a school board meeting in December 2010, Jose Gonzalez told a reporter for the Tucson Citizen website the same story and claimed to have witnessed the alleged outburst.
     The Raza Studies program has been targeted by former Arizona school Superintendent Tom Horne, now the state’s attorney general, as racist and anti-American. HB 2281 could deny funding to the program. Tucson USD leaders still are engaged in a controversial debate about changes to the curriculum.
     Ward says the defendants made up the story in retaliation for his criticism of Raza Studies. He seeks punitive damages for defamation and false light.
     He is represented by Armand Salese and Ned Garn.

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