Judge: Racism behind Arizona ban on Mexican-American studies

August 22, 2017 08:26 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — Racism was behind an Arizona ban on ethnic studies that shuttered a popular Mexican-American Studies program, a federal judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima found that the state enacted the ban with discriminatory intent.

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He had previously upheld most of the law in a civil lawsuit filed by students in the Tucson Unified School District, but a federal appeals court, while upholding most of his ruling, sent the case back to trial to determine if the ban was enacted with racist intent.

The new trial was held in July.

The law prohibits courses that promote resentment toward a race or a class of people or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating people as individuals.

A portion of the law that banned courses designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group was struck down.

Tashima said in the ruling Tuesday that the state violated student's constitutional rights "because both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus."

However, Tashima said he doesn't know a remedy for the violation and has not issued a final judgment.

Plaintiffs' attorneys hoped he would throw out the law, which was enacted in 2010, the same year Arizona approved its landmark immigration law known as SB1070.

Tucson Unified School District dismantled its program in 2012 to avoid losing state funding. The district has not said whether it would bring the program back if the law is thrown out.

Tom Horne, former state attorney general and former leader of Arizona's public schools, testified in July that he was troubled by what he described as radical instructors teaching students to be disruptive. But he insisted he targeted all ethnic studies programs equally.

Students in the Tucson district, which offered the Mexican-American courses, launched protests and sued.

Horne drafted the law as superintendent of public schools and later defended it as state attorney general.

Credits

By ASTRID GALVAN

(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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