Efforts by Hispanic students to save the Mexican-American studies program in the Tucson Unified School District have intensified as part of the resistance by the Hispanic community to preserve its rights.

"I believe that all of us students have the right to fight to keep our culture and express ourselves," 18-year-old Daniel Montoya told Efe.

Montoya was among the group of students who last week burst into a Tucson school board meeting and chained themselves to the chairs.

The actions of the young people have received heavy criticism from some, although members of the Hispanic community have expressed their great support.

Arizona implemented a state law placing strict limits on ethnic studies programs in the public schools.

The measure bans programs that promote "the overthrow of the United States government" or "resentment toward a race or class of people."

Likewise excluded are curricula "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" or that seek to "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."

The law was specifically designed to end the TUSD's ethnic studies programs, long criticized by Arizona's education superintendent, Tom Horne.

TUSD's programs are currently under evaluation, but if the Arizona Education Department decides that they do not comply with the new rules, the school district could lose up to 10 percent of the funding it would normally get from the state.

To avoid that, TUSD proposed changing the curriculum, changing these chasses to electives so that in this way students can continue to take them.

"There is much racism in Arizona. This is not only an attack on Hispanics, but on education itself," said Montoya.

Tucson students fear that if these classes are classified as electives, very soon thereafter they will disappear due to budgetary pressures.

TUSD will hold a meeting on Tuesday at which the matter will be discussed, but it is still not clear whether or not a final decision will be made at that time.