Federal Judge Blocks Arizona from Banning Mexican American Studies Classes

Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times, December 27, 2017

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.

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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.”

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