Eleven Tucson area educators have filed a lawsuit against the state board of education and superintendent this week arguing that a state ban against Mexican-American studies, set to take effect at the end of this year, is “anti-Hispanic.”
The teachers are asking a federal judge for a stay on the new law because, they argue, it violates free speech, equal protection and due process. They say the law, “was enacted by the legislature of the state of Arizona and signed into law by (Gov. Jan) Brewer as a result of racial bias and anti-Hispanic beliefs and sentiments.”
Coming on the heels of SB 1070, which was supported by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, the ethnic studies law authorizes him to stop any classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government … promote resentment toward a race or class of people … (or) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals.”
Horne has chosen the Tucson class as his first target in part over his objection to the use of the word “raza” in the name of the class. Up until last October, the program was known as the “Mexican American/Raza Studies program.” The district changed the name to the “Mexican-American Studies” because of “Horne’s constant criticism and disparaging comments.”
The lawsuit also cites Horne’s opposition to the use of the text book, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by California professor Rodolfo Acuna. The book teaches that parts of the US once belonged to Mexico.
“They teach them that this is occupied territory that should be given back,” Horne said.
Teacher Sally Rusk says she is not breaking any laws in her classroom. “No, absolutely not,” she said when asked if she’s ever taught students that the Southwest should be returned to Mexico. “This is the U.S. Do any of the textbooks advocate that? No! No!”
If the law goes into effect, Tucson’s school district could lose up to $3 million a month in withheld state aid.
Horne, who is stepping down from his superintendant position because of term limits, is a Republican candidate for Attorney General.