Frontera Fund News

The Resurgence of the Ethnic Studies Ban

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

As if Arizona’s education landscape has no pressing issues to solve, such as being ranked dead last in the nation for public school spending per student, 49th for pupil-to-teacher ratio, and 49th for median annual teacher salary, the issue that occupies our legislators’ time is ethnic studies. Again.

This happens even when ethnic studies has already been prohibited and subsequently bitterly debated and litigated for more than six years. Who does not remember the student protests in Tucson that garnered national attention when Jan Brewer was governor and John Huppenthal was Superintendent of Public Instruction?

Now Republican State Representatives Bob Thorpe and Mark Finchem have introduced HB2120, which bans curricula “that promotes division, resentment or social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people, or are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” etc., both in elementary and higher education.  Please note they added social justice to the language on the ban. Additionally, the bill gives the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction the ability to decide what curricula violates HB2120 and to punish school districts or charter schools by withholding up to 10 percent of the monthly state aid for the district or charter school. So much for freedom of speech.

See the complete text of HB2120 here.

These legislators probably did not get the memo that in Maya Arce, et al. v. John Huppenthal, et al, the Ninth Circuit court of appeals determined that students had a First Amendment right to receive information that was prohibited by a 2010 version of this ethnic studies ban. The court also found that there was substantial evidence that the law was adopted and enforced for discriminatory motives.

This ruling came in response to House Bill 2281, which was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in 2010.

Funny how they keep pushing the ethnic studies ban, when with every attack, the community – not only in Arizona but beyond – has fought back, creating initiatives that highlight the history, literature, and values of the people attacked, creating culturally enriching experiences for all. Look at the success of the Libro Traficante movement as an example.

The legislative session has just started, and this will not be the only anti-immigrant, anti-social justice bill. Keep reading Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund to keep up-to-date on the issues that affect the community.