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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Superintendent wrong to threaten students

    If you don’t want students to leave school to participate in protests, lock them in. If you don’t want teachers to leave work to participate in something they believe in, threaten to fire them. This is the message Tom Horne, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, sent out to districts across the state last week in preparation for Monday’s immigration rally in Phoenix.

    While Horne conceded that the protests have provided great civics lessons for students, he showed he didn’t think they were nearly important enough for students to miss one more day of school for.

    The magnitude of Monday’s absences varied from school to school here in Tucson. Tucson Magnet High School had 1,500 of its 2,600 students miss school, while absences at Amphitheater High School were much like those of any other day. The total student absences in Tucson were estimated at 15,000.

    Though it’s an understandable argument that having so many students absent at one time is a problem, the combination of half-days, athletic absences, senior ditch days and other absences that occur in our high schools indicates that there are lesser reasons that pull students out of school on a daily basis.

    As is often the case for current issues facing Arizona schools, the AIMS test played a large role in this debate. Part of the reason some school officials were so concerned with high absentee rates was the possibility of schools failing to test enough students during testing periods this week, which could have resulted in AIMS “”underperformance”” for the school. This fear of underperformance motivated some schools to postpone the start of AIMS exams.

    Though some would argue otherwise, this is not the end of the world. Students and schools have ample time to test during their three-week testing period and students are able to take the AIMS multiple times before graduation.

    Opponents of student participation in the rally have also argued that students know little about the issues at hand and have accused students of partaking in the events just to miss school. But it’s hard to argue that’s the motivation for all students; this is Arizona, a border state, and immigration has affected thousands here in some way or another.

    Phoenix Preparatory Academy addressed this issue by requiring students who missed school without an excuse to identify their representatives in Washington, D.C., and write a paper about how proposed immigration legislation would affect them and their families.

    This is a productive way of persuading those students who are not truly interested in the issues to stay in school – much more productive than locking them in. Those students with a vested interest in the issue would still be doing something for school by applying what they have learned from their participation in the protests to an assignment.

    Regardless of which side of the issue one is on, we can’t deny that this is history in the making, and our students shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to partake in it. Recall the participation of high school and college students in the Civil Rights Movement. This kind of participation is an American tradition backed by American rights.

    The students who participated will get to look back on their participation in protests and appreciate the very “”American”” nature of it. Whether they were part of the 15,000 here in Tucson or the 100,000 up in Phoenix, students were a part of something within their communities and were part of something monumental occurring in our nation.

    As superintendent, Horne’s motivation to make these suggestions is understandable, but going so far as to suggest locking students in schools was much too severe.

    Though schools were concerned with carrying out business as usual, as they should have been, it can’t be disregarded that Monday was not a normal day for the state or for our country.

    Vanessa Valenzuela is a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies. She can be reached at

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