Douglas, Sanchez: Meeting Shows Potential for Resolution on Ethnic Studies

Douglas, Sanchez: Meeting Shows Potential for Resolution on Ethnic Studies

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said today she supports Arizona Department of Education findings that the Tucson Unified School District is currently in violation of A.R.S. §15-112 and the subsequent notification of a 60-day period to correct the violations.

However, Superintendent Douglas insisted on meeting personally with TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez before commenting or taking further action.  The meeting held Wednesday established that both leaders consider correction of the violations a high priority to avoid the 10 percent reduction in funding required by statute.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, left, and Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, right.

“It is important to correct the misunderstanding that ADE is opposed to ethnic studies.  In fact, I have already met with the department’s African American Advisory Committee, am forming a Latino Advisory Committee and will be working with our Native American Advisory Council. They will provide specific input on how to include ethnic studies as part of history standards and curricula for all Arizona students, regardless of ethnicity,” said Superintendent Douglas.  She continued, “If any child educated in Arizona is not exposed to the suffering, trials and triumphs of all ethnic groups who have contributed to our state’s rich cultural mix, then we are failing to teach accurate history.”

ADE is satisfied with the curricula for ethnic studies developed by TUSD at the district level and supports the program.  However, ADE staff documented extensive evidence that the curricula have not been properly implemented in the classroom and lesson plans and materials do not reflect the new curricula.  These deviations from the curricula are in violation of the state law.

Working collaboratively with ADE and TUSD staff, Superintendent Douglas and TUSD Superintendent Sanchez agreed to a plan of action to ensure that the curricula are taught correctly and in accordance with statute in the individual classrooms.

“I am pleased with the new opportunity to work together with Superintendent Douglas to resolve this issue. I was excited to be invited to work on a Latino Advisory Committee to suggest standards and curricula to include Latino history for all children in Arizona,” said Superintendent Sanchez.  “The offer to work hand-in-hand to make specific changes in classroom instruction to encourage critical thinking is certainly something I can support.”

TUSD has 60 days to make corrective actions to comply with the law, according to ADE staff.  The timing of the notification will allow these changes to be made prior to the start of the fall semester and create an urgency to solve the issue on a long-term basis.  Waiting to provide notification of statutory violations would have made changes difficult to achieve prior to the beginning of the next school year.

“If we continue to work together and Superintendent Sanchez remains committed to correcting and supervising the implementation of the approved curricula, then we can avoid having to impose penalties on TUSD,” said Superintendent Douglas.  “This is a serious situation.  Under my oath of office I have to enforce the law and if no progress is made, the penalty will be imposed. This would have significant negative impacts on the TUSD budget.  I was relieved to have such an open and cooperative discussion with Dr. Sanchez and believe if we can build on this first meeting, both ADE and TUSD can reach a mutually acceptable ethnic studies program that satisfies the requirements of A.R.S. §15-112.”

While the notice from former Superintendent John Huppenthal mentioned the hip hop music genre, it is certainly acceptable to include music and other arts when studying cultural and ethnic history and its impact and expression.  No inclusion of any type of music is, in itself, a violation.  As with other curricula, the violation was in the selective use of specific lyrics and passages without providing multiple viewpoints to students, according to ADE.

ADE also believes each district should apply the same standards to music lyrics in ethnic studies as they would to music selections performed by students in school choirs and other music courses.  This includes community standards for language, violence and sexual references to ensure they are appropriate for the age of the students receiving instruction.

Dr. Jennifer Johnson, ADE Deputy Superintendent, will now work directly with Superintendent Sanchez and TUSD staff to address the violations contained in Appendix A of the notification letter.  If that process is successful, then the violations will be corrected and the notification letter can be suspended.


For clarification, A.R.S. §15-112 does NOT prohibit ethnic studies, but only certain types of instruction. The statute in its entirety states:

15-112. Prohibited courses and classes; enforcement

  1. A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:
  2. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
  3. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
  4. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
  5. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
  6. If the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction determines that a school district or charter school is in violation of subsection A, the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction shall notify the school district or charter school that it is in violation of subsection A. If the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction determines that the school district or charter school has failed to comply with subsection A within sixty days after a notice has been issued pursuant to this subsection, the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction may direct the department of education to withhold up to ten per cent of the monthly apportionment of state aid that would otherwise be due the school district or charter school. The department of education shall adjust the school district or charter school’s apportionment accordingly. When the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction determines that the school district or charter school is in compliance with subsection A, the department of education shall restore the full amount of state aid payments to the school district or charter school.
  7. The department of education shall pay for all expenses of a hearing conducted pursuant to this section.
  8. Actions taken under this section are subject to appeal pursuant to title 41, chapter 6, article 10.
  9. This section shall not be construed to restrict or prohibit:
  10. Courses or classes for Native American pupils that are required to comply with federal law.
  11. The grouping of pupils according to academic performance, including capability in the English language, that may result in a disparate impact by ethnicity.
  12. Courses or classes that include the history of any ethnic group and that are open to all students, unless the course or class violates subsection A.
  13. Courses or classes that include the discussion of controversial aspects of history.
  14. Nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict or prohibit the instruction of the holocaust, any other instance of genocide, or the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on ethnicity, race, or class.