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Students, state board of education leaders protest renaming of Mexican-American studies course

June 12, 2018 GMT

AUSTIN — More than 50 people turned up in Austin to protest the name of a new Mexican-American studies high school elective, which nine Republicans on the State Board of Education voted in April to call “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.”

“How disrespectful and patronizing does that sound, to call someone by a name that is not that person’s name,” said Jayme Mathias, Executive Director of the Mexican American School Boards Association. “The term Mexican-American is central to the identify of Mexican-Americans.”

The protest took place outside the building where the State Board of Education will meet Tuesday to hear public testimony regarding the course. Board members voted unanimously this spring to create the high school elective, but split over what to call it, drawing the ire of academics and advocates, some of whom called the name change discrimination.

Brownsville board member Ruben Cortez Jr. lobbed criticism at the member who proposed the new name, David Bradley of Beaumont, calling him the “most mean-spirited SBOE member we have.” Bradley has said he rejects “hyphenated Americanism.”

More than half of Texas’ 5.4 million school-aged children come from Mexican or Latino backgrounds. Some schools in Texas already teach versions of the course, including in Houston Independent School District and KIPP San Antonio Public Schools, a charter school network.

The State Board of Education is readying to prepare standards for the course, a topic that is slated to come up at Wednesday’s meeting.

Allie Morris is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. Read more of her stories here. | amorris@express-news.net | @MorrisReports