– Kat Sinclair
Kat Sinclair, who is active with the UU Congregation of Tuscon and a volunteer with No Mas Muertes, was among seven people arrested Tuesday evening at a Tuscon Unified School District (TUSD) meeting that appeared close to dismantling the ethnic studies program as a required part of the Tucson school curriculum. Sinclair, a mother of a ninth-grader, was first to be arrested after she tried to address the board in support of the program.
TUSD is trying to compromise with a state law that targets ethnic studies programs by changing Mexican American social studies courses to electives that do not fulfill core requirements. The law in question, HB2281, passed last year within days of SB1070.
Mother Jones reported, “Hispanic students fill nearly half the seats in Arizona’s public school classrooms, but a new law signed by Governor Jan Brewer…makes it illegal for these students to learn about their heritage in school. HB 2281 prohibits schools from offering courses at any grade level that advocate ethnic solidarity, promote overthrow of the US government, or cater to specific ethnic groups—regulations which will dismantle the state’s popular Mexican-American studies programs.”
A teachers’ lawsuit against HB 2281 is ongoing, as is an external audit of the program.
According to the group Save Ethnic Studies, “programs such as Mexican American Studies in Tucson have been instrumental in improving the lives and dreams for thousands of students – classes and services that are now in danger of being eliminated due to partisan Arizona legislation. Arizona legislators have been adding one layer after another to criminalize immigrants and eliminating programs that teach students to think critically and become stakeholders in their communities is part of their larger plan.”
Last week, students stopped the TUSD vote on the proposal by chaining themselves to the board members’ chairs. This week, concerned parents, educators, and community members were arrested by police as they attempted to speak to the school board about the proposal.
This video details the scene and its build-up in full:
“This is a demonstration of the ridiculousness of what is happening in Arizona,” Sinclair told Standing on the Side of Love. “There were at least 150 cops at this public meeting – one cop for every two people — and there were helicopters in the air. The woman who attempted to speak right after me is 69 years old and was an educator for 30 years, and I watched them haul her out walking with her cane as they arrested her.”
You can take action! Sign this petition to save ethnic studies in Tuscon and demand the TUSD governing board vote ‘No’ on reducing Ethnic Studies to electives.
The note below was sent out by Kat Sinclair, who was unable to deliver her remarks to the Board:
Last night I stood up as a concerned parent at the TUSD School Board meeting and was arrested on a charge of criminal trespass. I was concerned that the Board had not voiced their agreement with Superintendent Pedicone’s recommendation to postpone their vote on Dr. Stegeman’s proposal until a town hall meeting could be held and all voices heard. I was concerned that members of the audience had asked the Board if they would hold a town hall meeting before they voted and were met with silence. Instead, the Board voted (3-2) to cancel the public meeting scheduled for this Thursday that would have been held in a high school auditorium to accommodate our community and include two hours of discussion. They refused the community’s request to extend the call to the audience to ensure that people’s opinions were heard. Instead, Dr. Stegeman announced that they would move on to the next item on the agenda—the vote.
As I was not allowed to speak beyond the first two sentences, I submit the following as an open letter to the TUSD school board:
My name is Dr. Katerina Sinclair and I am the mother of a TUSD high school freshman. Additionally, I hold a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies and a Masters in Applied Statistics from Penn State, along with three other university degrees. I have earned numerous teaching awards, recognitions, and certificates, and I research the effect of inclusive school policies and curricula on in-school victimization, academic outcomes, mental health and suicide risk for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Given the recent media coverage of these issues, I trust that I do not have to draw the parallel for this board between the risks faced by LGBT youth and those faced by Mexican American youth, and so this issue is of both personal and professional importance to me.
I stand before you as a concerned parent, but bring my academic background with me. Dr. Stegeman, I will address you directly as this is your proposal. As a fellow college educator, I am sure you are aware of the qualities that universities want in their students. We want students who own their own educations, who take initiative, who go beyond the lecture. We want critical thinkers who can draw parallels, question the status quo, and move themselves up Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives from simple recitation of facts to analysis and synthesis. If our graduates are to compete in this global economy, we need innovative, creative thinkers in the next generation of college students. Finally, and this is most relevant to this discussion, we need students who are able to think outside the box and challenge the assumptions of majority culture. We need students who have the background and ability to understand cultures that are not their own. For this reason, most universities require students to take courses that emphasize intercultural competence, including my alma mater and the University of Arizona.
As a white parent of a white student, this is of the greatest concern to me. I want my daughter to learn about the values and history of culture outside of that in which she was raised. Dr. Stegeman, I have read the articles and position statements that you have written regarding this proposal; you seem to believe that intercultural competence can be gained through incorporating materials on Mexican American history into general social studies classes. Although I appreciate your intention to broaden the coverage of Mexican American history, this is simply not how people learn. Consider if a colleague asked you to give a guest lecture on game theory, your area of expertise, in their freshman economics course. Would you then consider these students to be competent to discuss game theory? I think not. Similarly, we would not teach students the Cyrillic alphabet and then say they learned Russian. Intercultural competence is developed through immersion in another culture and a deep understanding of value systems in the same way that languages are learned through continuous contact.
As I raise my daughter in our racially and culturally mixed city, I want her to have the opportunity for this immersion; I want her to be competitive in an increasingly global context. The answer also does not lie in making these courses electives. Due to her advanced mathematical background, last year my daughter, who was then in middle school, took math courses at Tucson High. Due to the differences in schedules, she was unable to take any elective courses the entire year. As she should be finished with Calculus II by the end of her junior year and she will have to commute to a college to continue her mathematical coursework, we are anticipating similar problems with scheduling in the coming years. My daughter, who is brilliant in both humanities and mathematics, is the type of student we want in our college courses. She is well-rounded and enthusiastic. Please encourage her enthusiasm for learning about other cultures. Do not stifle it. Do not make these courses electives. Expand the course offerings instead to allow for more students to develop critical thinking skills and intercultural competence. Ensure the competitiveness of our graduates for college and job opportunities.
As a parent, as a fellow educator, and as a Tucson community member, I am asking that you remove your proposal from consideration, Dr. Stegeman. Thank you for your time.More >
The following message came through from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, comprised of 130+ religious institutions, service agencies, community organizations, unions, and chambers of commerce that believe that we are One Nation, One Dream:
This afternoon the Illinois Senate passed the Illinois DREAM Act, SB 2185, by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote of 45 to 11! The bill creates an “Illinois DREAM Commission” appointed by the Governor, which will raise a privately financed scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students; allow Illinois undocumented families to participate in the state’s college savings programs; and requires high school counselors to learn about the higher education options open to immigrant students in Illinois, including in-state tuition that passed in Illinois in 2003.
In addition Illinois Governor Quinn sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security withdrawing from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Secure Communities program. The letter states that the stated purpose of the Secure Communities program is the deportation of immigrants “convicted of serious criminal offenses.” The letter further states, “by ICE’s own measure, less than 20% of those who have been deported from Illinois under the program have ever been convicted of a serious crime.”
Illinois proves that it is a state with a big heart that wants serious immigration solutions, and does not support the cruel destruction of families through pointless deportations.
Protests against Arizona-style, anti-immigrant legislation led the Florida Senate to pass a highly watered-down version of what had previously passed the House. Now, 2/3 of House members must agree to bring the Senate version up for a vote.
With the alliance of Democrats, who seem universally opposed, and Hispanic Republicans who are uncomfortable with the language, it remains unlikely to pass.
The sponsor of the SB1070-eque House bill has declared the issue ‘dead’ for this legislative session, which ends Friday.
Kudos to Florida UU Ministers who organized their faith colleagues to speak up against the inhumane proposals of attrition.
Si Se Puede!More >
Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, drafted a statement of conscience regarding the bills. He and Kindra Muntz of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Florida urged interfaith colleagues to join them in signing on and delivering it to state legislators. More than 30 clergy statewide from diverse denominations have signed on. The text of the letter is below.
Today is a day of urgency for Floridians who are standing on the side of love with immigrant families. Said Maria Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, ”These immoral and costly bills are being strengthened on the Senate floor today. Immigrant families have been holding constant presence, so much so that they are now being threatened by Tea Party activists who have called immigration not just on the families but on legislators who listen to them.”
FLORIDIANS: PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATOR TODAY TO OPPOSE THE DRACONIAN ARIZONA-STYLE ANTI-IMMIGRATION BILL SB2040. You can find your senator’s phone number at www.flsenate.gov.
Calls to Senators are needed ASAP, as are people in Tallahassee to stand with the immigrant families. Your presence would give them strength and courage, and you will find the experience educational and inspiring. Join them! Call Kathy Bird for help coordinating your trip at 786-210-9030.
As religious leaders of diverse faith traditions across Florida, we unite our voices to call on our Legislature for a gracious and compassionate tone in our state’s immigration debate. We encourage lawmakers to focus on healing Florida communities and promoting the rights and inherent worth of every person.
Our diverse faith traditions challenge us to welcome the stranger among us with love and compassion and to practice hospitality towards all people, regardless of their place of birth. Since the enforcement of our laws impacts the human dignity and human rights of the person, it is incumbent upon faith communities to promote the humane treatment of newcomers and to call attention to practices and proposed laws which may lead to their abuse and suffering.
Because we value family unity, justice, equity, compassion, love, and the humane treatment of all persons, we dedicate ourselves, in our teaching and our witness, to calling for immigration reform. It is our collective prayer that Congress and our state legislature enact just immigration reform based on these tenets.
We understand that the people of Florida are frustrated. What we have is a flawed and broken system in need of some serious overhaul. Political leaders in Washington seem to lack the will or the vision to come up with a more just and humane immigration policy. But the solution to ineffective partisan posturing isn’t to pass bills like SB 2040 and HB 7089 that will merely create a host of serious problems that should concern us all.
We recognize and support the right of the United States to protect and secure our border and enforce our immigration laws. We support the work of lawmakers and law enforcement officials in protecting all people in Florida. However, when working to maintain and improve public safety, our Florida Legislators should be cautious when considering policies that could detract from safety and risk the inadvertent deprivation of the civil and constitutional rights of citizens and lawful permanent residents.
As policymakers and leaders, Florida legislators have the opportunity and responsibility to guide our whole community into a future of compassion, hope, and mutual respect. By affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person, including those who migrate, lawmakers can help the people of Florida move from fear to respect.
We urge Florida legislators to reject policies that could encourage discrimination, compromise local law enforcement, or scapegoat immigrants.
Let’s work to fix our nation’s broken immigration system, respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people, and stand on the side of love with immigrant families in our communities.
Reverend Abhi Janamanchi, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, FL
The Reverend Kenneth Gordon Hurto, Unitarian Universalist Minister, Executive of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Florida District, Orlando, FL
The Reverend Russell L. Meyer, Executive Director, Florida Council of Churches, Tampa, FL
Rabbi David Weizman and Rabbi Danielle Upbin-Weizman, Congregation Beth Shalom, Clearwater, FL
Reverend Susan Sherwood, Pastor, Good Samaritan Church (Presbyterian/United Church of Christ), Pinellas Park, FL
Reverend Leddy Hammock, Senior Minister, Unity Church of Clearwater, FL
Reverend Dr. Robert Palin, Interim Minister, Faith United Church of Christ, Clearwater, FL
Reverend Gladys McCurtain, Minister, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Clearwater, FL
Reverend Renwick J. Bell, Pastor, Church of Our Savior, MCC, Boynton Beach, FL
Chaplain Wilfredo Amir Ruiz, Esq., Executive Director, American Muslims for Emergency and Relief
Jeannette Smith, Quaker Peace Center, Miami, FL
Reverend Meredith Garmon, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, FL
Reverend Gail Tapscott, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Secretary, South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
Reverend Robin Gray, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee
Reverend Dr. Sara Zimmerman, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, FL
Reverend Scott W. Alexander, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach, FL
Reverend Ronald A. Hersom, Settled Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville, FL
Reverend Dr. Marni Harmony, Consulting Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lakeland, FL
Reverend Allison W. Farnum, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Myers, FL
Rev. Jan E. Taddeo, Consulting Minister, UU Fellowship of Marion County, FL
Project Coordinator, Florida District Racial Justice Council
Shireen Chada, Administrator, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, Tampa, FL
Jack Romberg, Rabbi, Temple Israel, Tallahassee, FL
Rev. Phyllis Hunt, Senior Minister, Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa, FL
Aziz Merchant, Islamic Community Center, Oldsmar, FL
Father Richard G. Mullen, O.S.A., The Little Flower Catholic Church, Hollywood, FL
Fr. John Cox, OMI Pastor, Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Miami, FL
Frank J. Corbishley, Chaplain, Episcopal Church Center, Coral Gables, FL.
Rev. Doug McMahon, Director of Campus Ministries, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL
Rev. Lilly Shannon, Associate Chaplain, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL
“We’re New Yorkers, and after 61 years of togetherness, we feel we have a right to be married in New York.”
The push for marriage equality in New York State is moving full steam ahead, with Governor Cuomo, business leaders, national and local LGBT civil rights groups, and allied organizations like the League of Women Voters advocating for a positive vote in the State Senate in the coming months.
Today, Freedom to Marry released a touching video of John and Richard, a couple for 61 years, who want to marry in New York. Watch it, and learn more about how you can help by visiting Freedom to Marry at www.freedomtomarry.org.More >