By Corinne Murdock |
The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) nixed a faith-based advisory committee following pushback from parents.
The initiative originated from TUSD’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusiveness (EDI) department early last month, in an attempt to promote cultural diversity through inclusiveness of different religious faiths.
Kinasha Brown, the assistant superintendent for EDI, advised the TUSD community in an email that the faith-based advisory committee would partner with the district to weigh in on TUSD initiatives, programs, policies, and projects; coordinate K-2 literacy activities; support TUSD enrollment and registration drives; develop service-based learning opportunities; and offer an annual faith-based symposium.
“Our community prepares all students to become responsible, ethical and engaged global citizens by creating relevant, dynamic and joyful educational experiences that embrace cultural diversity,” read the email.
Following parental outcry over the committee, TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo issued a statement via email that the committee gave the impression that TUSD wasn’t secular and religiously neutral. Trujillo further clarified that the committee wouldn’t have decision-making power.
“This advisory committee is not going to have any decision-making power in any area of curriculum, instruction, programming, policy-making in schools, but we would like to at least reach out to the faith-based community in terms of where they can contribute with the overall needs of TUSD kids,” Trujillo said.
Trujillo’s email followed parents’ statements of opposition to the proposed committee during last week’s special governing board meeting.
One mother, Kate Goldman, said she was “really upset” by the proposed committee. Goldman questioned how TUSD would “equitably” ensure that all religious and non-religious groups would be represented.
“My child we intentionally put in a public school where I felt there would be a safe difference, a distinction, between church and state,” said Goldman. “I just don’t see the need, for a secular institution that I thought prided itself on critical thinking to be advised in any way by any faith whereas the evidence advisory committee that’s stupid, that’s school I thought. You are the evidence advisory, I thought. Why are we having a faith-based one?”
Goldman expressed worry that a faith-based group would squash all other equity efforts.
Goldman also testified that she attempted, unsuccessfully, to sign up to join the group, claiming that the signup links and emails wouldn’t go through.
Arnie Bermudez, a father, challenged the legality of the committee.
“Why are we trying to shoehorn religion into our school district since there are already private schools all over Tucson that can fill this gap?” asked Bermudez.
Watch the TUSD governing board meeting remarks against the faith-based advisory committee here: