Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill targeting a school district’s ethnic studies program on Tuesday, hours after a report by United Nations human rights experts condemned the measure.
State schools chief Tom Horne, who has pushed the measure for years, said a Tucson school district program promotes “ethnic chauvinism” and racial resentment toward whites while segregating students by race.
“It’s just like the old South, and it’s long past time that we prohibited it,” Horne said.
The measure prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group. It also prohibits classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.
Horne said he believes the Mexican-American studies program teaches Latino students that they are oppressed by white people. Public schools should not be encouraging students to resent a particular race, he said.
A Republican running for attorney general, Horne has been trying to restrict the program ever since he learned that Hispanic civil rights activist Dolores Huerta in 2006 told students that “Republicans hate Latinos.”
District officials said the program doesn’t promote resentment, and they believe it would comply with the new law.
About 1,500 students at six high schools in the district are enrolled in the program. Elementary and middle school students also are exposed to the ethnic studies curriculum. The district is 56 percent Hispanic, with nearly 31,000 Latino students.
Six UN human rights experts released a statement earlier Tuesday expressing concern about the measure. All people have the right to learn about their own cultural and linguistic heritage, they said.
The law doesn’t prohibit classes that teach about the history of a particular ethnic group, as long as the course is open to all students and doesn’t promote ethnic solidarity or resentment.