Judge Upholds Arizona Law Banning Ethnic Studies

Arizona state officials rejoiced yesterday as a U.S. Circuit Judge upheld state law HB 2281, which prohibits any class that “advocates ethnic solidarity.” The law was written to advance the dissolution of the popular and effective Mexican-American Studies (MAS) Program in Tucson in January 2012.

Though Judge A. Wallace Tashima did not believe objections to the law met “the high threshold to establish a constitutional violation,” he did acknowledge that the section of the law that bars courses that “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” is unconstitutionally vague. He didn’t, however, issue an injunction on that part of the law.

When the MAS program was suspended under threat of budget cuts, we rallied dozens of organizations to speak out in protest of the action. The dissolution of the program in Tucson also led to the effective banning of dozens of books that might seed ethnic resentment or advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Among these dangerous and imflammatory tomes are Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States, Junot Diaz’ Drown,  Paolo Freire’s Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years and Occupied America: A History of the Chicanos.

One of the teen filmmakers in this year’s Youth Free Expression Film Contest, Gio Garcia from Tucson, submitted a short documentary about the controversy (below).

Two more fun facts about HB 2281:
1. It was written by John Huppenthal with help from Tom Horne. Huppenthal was a state senator at the time, and is now Superintendent of Public Instruction. Horne was then Superintendent of Public Instruction and is now state Attorney General. Horne is also known for his enthusiastic enforcement of the Arizona English-only classrooms mandate and his recent plan to arm school principals and provide them with personal, free marksmanship training.

2. It also mandates “procedures for the use of corporal punishment if allowed by the governing board.” These rules will of course be “consistent with the constitutional rights of pupils” though, considering the source, it’s hard to say what those rights are and how far they extend anyway.

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