Federal judge blocks Arizona from banning Mexican-American studies classes

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the state of Arizona from enforcing a controversial law banning ethnic studies courses, bringing near a close a seven-year battle over teaching about Mexican-Americans in Tucson public schools.

Wallace Tashima, a federal appeals court judge sitting in the district court in Arizona, said in his injunction that state legislators who passed the ban in 2010 violated the Constitution.

The decision came in a lawsuit brought by students in 2010 against the state’s board of education. Supporters of ethnic studies said the law, which banned courses designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group, was racist and targeted Mexican-Americans.

Tashima said the ban was “not for a legitimate educational purpose, but for an invidious discriminatory racial purpose and a politically partisan purpose.”

Tashima also said the state could not keep funding from schools for not obeying the ban. The state’s threat to withhold more than $14 million led Tuscon to drop its Mexican-American studies program in 2012.

The judge added that the state cannot lead “any inspections or audits of any program, curriculum or course” to check whether a school district is following the 2010 law.

A former teacher in the Tucson program, Curtis Acosta, celebrated on Twitter. “This! Happy New Year, mi gente (my people)!” he wrote.

Richard Martinez, an attorney who represented the teachers and students in the lawsuit, said “the judge gave us precisely what we asked for.”

The Tucson district has not said whether it will revive the curriculum, which helped spur similar educational programs in schools around the country. The Arizona attorney general’s office has also not said whether it will appeal the injunction.

When the law passed, activists protested it as a symbol of anti-Latino sentiment, and said the state was using racism against Mexican-Americans to sow political divisions. It was all the more controversial because it came to be the same year as the widely protested SB 1070 law, which required police to determine the immigration status of people arrested or detained when there was “reasonable suspicion” they were not in the U.S. legally.

The injunction follows an August ruling from Tashima in which he said the law was unconstitutional and racially motivated. He not did not issue an injunction against it until Wednesday.

In August, Tashima said the law violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution by discriminating against Latinos and violating students’ First Amendment “right to receive information and ideas.”

Tashima also criticized John Huppenthal and Tom Horne, the former Arizona state superintendents of public instruction who pushed to pass the ban.

“Defendants were pursuing these discriminatory ends in order to make political gains,” the judge wrote. “Horne and Huppenthal repeatedly pointed to their efforts against the (Mexican-American studies) program in their respective 2011 political campaigns, including in speeches and radio advertisements. The issue was a political boon to the candidates.”

2 Comments
  1. Ken Conklin December 28, 2017 4:37 am Reply

    I believe that Judge Teshima’s ruling will be overturned on appeal. I certainly hope so!

    Here are the first few paragraphs of an article I published in 2010-2011 when the Arizona law had just been passed: https://tinyurl.com/2vas5tm

    A new law took effect in January 2011 which prohibits ethnic studies courses in the public schools and charter schools from being used as propaganda factories to build racial solidarity and anti-Americanism. The law targets courses which attract primarily students of any particular ethnicity, where the curriculum fosters hatred toward other racial groups by portraying them as oppressors — courses that promote anti-American, secessionist attitudes by describing America as invader and occupier of the ethnic homeland.

    What? Did local media last year fail to report a law enacted by the Hawaii legislature or Congress? Will we now see a major cleanup of racial hate-mongering and anti-Americanism in the “Hawaiian-focus” charter schools, Hawaiian language immersion schools, the “Hawaiian studies” curriculum throughout all the public schools and perhaps even the University of Hawaii and community colleges?

    No. The law was passed by the Arizona legislature because of concerns over the “La Raza” curriculum in that state’s public school ethnic studies courses. Instead of taking the usual American History course required for graduation, students substitute a special ethnic-branded “studies” course: Mexican-American, African-American, Asian-American, or Native-American studies.

    The new law is neutral on race and ethnicity. It does not single out the Mexican-American studies program. But of course the group loudly protesting is the one that knows it faces drastic consequences because it is the one whose “studies” curriculum violates the law. The La Raza curriculum teaches that nearly all Mexican-Americans have at least one drop of Mayan or Aztec blood, making them “indigenous” people with special rights under “international law.” The states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, along with parts of other states, were formerly part of Mexico until the U.S. staged an armed invasion, took over their lands, and incorporated the lands and people into America without their consent and without compensating them. La Raza teaches that the “illegal immigrants” invading America by the millions have every right to enter the U.S. as part of a “reconquista” because “We did not cross the border, the border crossed us. This is our homeland. It’s the Anglos who are the illegal invaders.”

    The La Raza curriculum is dangerous because it fuels Mexican nationalist hatred toward America, and racial hatred toward Anglos (Caucasians), in the hearts and minds of Mexican-American teenagers; and it serves these evil purposes with the use of taxpayer dollars.

    Anyone who wondered whether the first paragraph of the present essay was describing Hawaii has good reason to be confused, because the claims for reparations and sovereignty being made by Mexican-Americans sound very similar to the claims asserted by Hawaiian sovereignty activists — claims which are the main focus of the U.S. apology resolution to Native Hawaiians in 1993, and repeated in every version of the racial separatist Akaka bill as its main moral justification. (See note below regarding “Hawaiian Nationalism, Chicano Nationalism …”). There are close similarities between the La Raza curriculum and the Hawaiian Studies curriculum in the way they foster ethnic nationalism, anti-Americanism, and racial hatred toward Caucasians.


  2. Ken Conklin December 28, 2017 8:30 am Reply

    Here are the first several paragraphs of an article about the Arizona law which I published in 2010-2011

    A new law took effect in January 2011 which prohibits ethnic studies courses in the public schools and charter schools from being used as propaganda factories to build racial solidarity and anti-Americanism. The law targets courses which attract primarily students of any particular ethnicity, where the curriculum fosters hatred toward other racial groups by portraying them as oppressors — courses that promote anti-American, secessionist attitudes by describing America as invader and occupier of the ethnic homeland.

    What? Did local media last year fail to report a law enacted by the Hawaii legislature or Congress? Will we now see a major cleanup of racial hate-mongering and anti-Americanism in the “Hawaiian-focus” charter schools, Hawaiian language immersion schools, the “Hawaiian studies” curriculum throughout all the public schools and perhaps even the University of Hawaii and community colleges?

    No. The law was passed by the Arizona legislature because of concerns over the “La Raza” curriculum in that state’s public school ethnic studies courses. Instead of taking the usual American History course required for graduation, students substitute a special ethnic-branded “studies” course: Mexican-American, African-American, Asian-American, or Native-American studies.

    The new law is neutral on race and ethnicity. It does not single out the Mexican-American studies program. But of course the group loudly protesting is the one that knows it faces drastic consequences because it is the one whose “studies” curriculum violates the law. The La Raza curriculum teaches that nearly all Mexican-Americans have at least one drop of Mayan or Aztec blood, making them “indigenous” people with special rights under “international law.” The states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, along with parts of other states, were formerly part of Mexico until the U.S. staged an armed invasion, took over their lands, and incorporated the lands and people into America without their consent and without compensating them. La Raza teaches that the “illegal immigrants” invading America by the millions have every right to enter the U.S. as part of a “reconquista” because “We did not cross the border, the border crossed us. This is our homeland. It’s the Anglos who are the illegal invaders.”

    The La Raza curriculum is dangerous because it fuels Mexican nationalist hatred toward America, and racial hatred toward Anglos (Caucasians), in the hearts and minds of Mexican-American teenagers; and it serves these evil purposes with the use of taxpayer dollars.

    Anyone who wondered whether the first paragraph of the present essay was describing Hawaii has good reason to be confused, because the claims for reparations and sovereignty being made by Mexican-Americans sound very similar to the claims asserted by Hawaiian sovereignty activists — claims which are the main focus of the U.S. apology resolution to Native Hawaiians in 1993, and repeated in every version of the racial separatist Akaka bill as its main moral justification. (See note below regarding “Hawaiian Nationalism, Chicano Nationalism …”). There are close similarities between the La Raza curriculum and the Hawaiian Studies curriculum in the way they foster ethnic nationalism, anti-Americanism, and racial hatred toward Caucasians.


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