Local Parents Document Tucson's Ethnic Studies Battle
Gabriel Buelna and Fernando hope their documentary will spark conversation about TUSD's banning of Mexican American studies.
By David Fonseca
Gabriel Buelna and Fernando Orozco are known to their neighbors for being actively engaged at local Mount Washington Elementary School.
The two parents are not only members of the fundraising organization, Friends of Mount Washington School, but were also leaders of an effort to oust former Mount Washington Elementary Principal Sosie Kralian over complaints of decreased parent involvement and transparency.
However, Buelna and Orozco are now trying to garner attention for an educational issue 500-miles from the Arroyo.
The two local dads recently released Outlawing Shakespeare:The Battle for the Tucson Mind, a 42-minute documentary about the Tucson Unified School District's banning of Mexican American Studies.
Buelna, a professor of ethnic studies at Cal-State Northridge, said he was inspired to look into the issue by the writing of colleague Rudy Acuña.
"We learned they were banning books in Tucson," Buelna said. "I told Fernando, I think we have a story here."
In January of 2012, the Tucson Unified School District discontinued their Mexican American studies program following the passage of a Arizona law banning classes that "encourage the overthrow of the government, promote ethic solidarity or treat students as members of groups rather than individuals," according to the Huffington Post.
Buelna and Orozco, who is a cameraman and director with Electric Shadows Inc., said they were inspired by the stories coming out of Tucson to travel to school district to learn more about the program first hand.
The two took three trips to Tucson--flying once and driving twice--where they attempted to document subjects on both sides of the issue.
Despite their effort to create a balanced documentary, Buelna is also open in his opposition of the Arizona law banning ethic studies.
"You're basically saying you don't want Latino students to be able to read anything by Latino authors," he said. "The point of this entire issue is about cultural freedom. As Americans, do we have the right to practice distinct cultures?"
Buelna said a federal judge is now accepting public comments about a statement submitted by the federal overseer of the Tucson Unified School District, which orders the Mexican American studies program to be reinstated.
"The hope is that we want people to look at this, be open to it and share it with other people," he said. "It's a complete social media documentary."
Outlawing Shakespeare: The Battle for the Tucson Mind can be found on The Non-Profit Network's website here.