A Sweetwater Union High School District board member is calling for an investigation into the actions of the president and CEO of the MAAC Project and its charter school.
Jim Cartmill said the actions of Antonio Pizano amounted to clear viewpoint-based discrimination, something he didn’t think was acceptable from the leader of a publicly funded school.
“The law of the land is that you let all groups in (regardless of ideology) or you don’t let any groups in … I’m not sure I’m talking about penalties, I just want to make sure we have a clear understanding of the role of public schools,” Cartmill said.
The controversy erupted after Pizano had withdrawn the use of school grounds for a political forum once he learned radio talk show host Roger Hedgecock was moderating the event.
As a result of his demands, Hedgecock pulled out of the event, one of the event’s organizers, The Star-News, withdrew its support, and two mayoral candidates, including Mayor Cheryl Cox, did not attend.
Cox said she had been told the event was cancelled.
Pizano said Hedgecock’s history of what he characterized as “anti-Latino” comments prompted him to protest the former San Diego mayor’s presence.
Although the event was well publicized, with advertisements running in both The Star-News and a local daily newspaper, Pizano said he was only notified at noon on Monday that Hedgecock would be moderating the event.
Pizano said the school venue had been reserved informally, a practice that had been common – and uncontroversial – in the past, and so he never approved Hedgecock’s participation.
He said Hedgecock’s stand on illegal immigration was not compatible with the goals of MAAC.
“You have to remember that MAAC stands for immigration reform (and education assistance for immigrants) … and those are issues that Mr. Hedgecock does not stand for, he does not agree. In fact, he’s anti-immigrant. Why would you want to bring someone to your home that doesn’t stand for what you believe in?” said Pizano.
Pizano said he had offered to fill in as moderator, an offer rejected by organizers.
Carlos Davalos, executive editor of The Star-News, said the newspaper’s withdrawal came after Hedgecock was out of the picture, and was not a capitulation to demands from MAAC.
Chula Vista Civic Association president and forum organizer Ed Herrera “said he’d called Hedgecock, and at that point the original deal had been broken, and we couldn’t go forward in good faith knowing that the rules of the game had been changed unilaterally,” Davalos said.
Hedgecock had previously moderated a similar event sponsored by The Star-News in 2006 without incident.
Herrera said the newspaper had withdrawn its support before Hedgecock was out of the picture.
Herrera said Pizano’s refusal to allow Hedgecock to fulfill his role as moderator amounted to discrimination. He also rejected Pizano’s claims that he didn’t know about Hedgecock’s participation, saying the event had been well-publicized.
“The folks that did have a problem with it knew well in advance, unfortunately, the director (Pizano) lied to me and said he barely found out today,” he said.
Hedgecock said his role at the forum was never one of advocacy, but simply to pose questions given to him by the organizers. Hedgecock said he isn’t racist nor anti-immigrant, saying he objected only to illegal immigration.
Hedgecock accused Pizano of censorship and didn’t mince words in his characterization of the MAAC mission.
“They’re cowards and open border activists and socialists. They’ve shown nakedly what they are,” by attempting to stifle a free exchange of ideas, Hedgecock said.
“If people come and break into this country, and bring their stupid old world ideas about the government being able to censor free speech, then they clearly haven’t assimilated and they should go back where they came from.”