Judge Rules That Arizona Mexican-American Studies Ban is Racist

By Kenrya Rankin Aug 24, 2017

Back in 2010, Arizona officials passed House Bill 2281, which banned ethnic studies programs in the state’s public schools. On Tuesday (August 22), U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled that the ban was enacted with the intent to discriminate.

The Tucson Unified School District halted its Mexican-American studies program in 2012 after state officials threatened district funding. The program—which included art, history, literature and government classes for kindergarten through 12th grade—was created in 1998 in an attempt to “remedy existing effects of past discriminatory acts or policies” impacting Latinx students in the district. It was associated with improved academic performance for students who participated.

After it was banned, a group of students filed a federal lawsuit against the state superintendent, Diane Douglas, alleging a breach of their constitutional rights. Tashima agreed, ruling that, “both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus.”

Tashima also wrote that the officials who pushed back against the Mexican-American studies program and championed the law—Tom Horne and John Huppenthal—were acting in self interest and intentionally using race as a wedge issue. “The court is convinced that decisions regarding the [Mexican-American studies] program were motivated by a desire to advance a political agenda by capitalizing on race-based fears.”

The Washington Post/The Associated Press reports that Tashima previously upheld most of the law, but that a federal appeals court sent the case back to him to rule on racist intent. While he found that the intent was there, Tashima stopped short of offering a final judgement on a remedy. Both the plaintiffs and defendants have 20 days to file briefs with suggested remedies for him to consider.