1st Amendment News

Arizona teachers claim law against Mexican-American studies unconstitutional

Teachers in the Tucson Unified School District are citing their free speech rights in suing in federal court to prevent the state from enacting a law that punishes the district’s  schools for  having a Mexican-American Studies Department. -db

Courthouse News Service
October 21, 2010
By Tim Hull

TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – Arizona has enacted an unconstitutional law that chills speech and will cut 10 percent of the money due to Tucson’s public schools unless the district kills its Mexican-American Studies Department, 11 teachers claim in Federal Court.

The teachers, all bilingual and Hispanic, say the state school board and the Superintendent of Public Instruction persuaded the Legislature to enact H.B. 2281 with the bogus claim that Mexican-American Studies advocates “the overthrow of the U.S. government.”

Gov. Jan Brewer signed H.B. 2281 into law on May 11. It takes effect on Dec. 31.

“Since House Bill 2281 was signed into law, Defendant Tom Horne as the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Executive Officer of the Arizona State Board of Education, has stated repeatedly and publicly that he intends to find the Tucson Unified School District No.1 Mexican-American Studies Department to be in violation of ARS § 15-112(A), a determination that 60 days thereafter would result in directing the Arizona Department of Education to withhold 10% of the monthly apportionment of State aid that would otherwise be due to Tucson Unified School District No. 1,” the complaint states.

“Since House Bill 2281 was signed into law, Defendant Tom Horne as the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Executive Officer of the Arizona State Board of Education, has determined that the Tucson Unified School District No.1 Mexican-American Studies Department to be in violation of ARS § 15-112(A), thus “[p]romotes the overthrow of the United States Government.”

The teachers sued Horne and the 10 members of the state school board, in their official capacities. They claim H.B. 2281 and Horne’s threatened financial punishment violates the First and 14th Amendments.

Horne, who is running for Arizona attorney general as a Republican, “was the principal advocate for the passage of House Bill 2281, legislation that he sought for the purpose of having a mechanism that would allow him to ‘shut down’ the Mexican-American Studies Department,” according to the complaint.

The law allows the superintendent of public instruction to deny money to state-funded classes that he believes “promote the overthrow of the United States government”; “promote resentment towards a race or class of people”; “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group;” and “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

The bill exempts “classes for Native American pupils that are required to comply with federal law.”

The teachers claim that Horne persuaded the same Legislature and governor that enacted S.B. 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law, to approve H.B. 2281 “as a result of racial bias and anti-Hispanic beliefs and sentiments.”

Horne “has engaged in a consistent pattern of conduct that has chilled the use of text books, material, posters, content, and the name of the Mexican-American Studies Department by all plaintiffs, thus impermissibly infringing on their free speech,” according to the complaint.

The teachers point out, among other things, that Tucson Unified School District No. 1 is 61 percent Hispanic, Tucson High School 67 percent Hispanic, Pueblo High School 89 percent Hispanic and Wakefield Middle School 92 percent Hispanic. The plaintiff teachers work in those and other schools in TUSD No. 1.

Horne said in a statement that he has “letters from teachers and former teachers detailing the radical agenda that takes places in these classes.”

He added, “It is fundamentally wrong to divide students up according to their racial group and teach them separately. That is why HB 2281 was passed, to put an end to these divisive programs and to dividing students by race in the 21st century.”

TUSD No. 1 inaugurated its Mexican-American Studies Department in 1998. The teachers say that evaluations of their department “have consistently shown that students who take and complete … course offerings pass the state required AIMS test at higher rates, graduate from high school are higher rates, have improved grades and matriculate to college at high rates while decreasing in the areas of discipline, poor attendance or dropping out of high school.”

They want Horne and the state school board “permanently enjoined from engaging in any action that harms the … Mexican-American Studies Department, administrator, educators or staff.”

They are represented by Richard Martinez.

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2 Awesome Comments So Far

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  1. Maria Canales
    October 31, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    Why does Tom Horne pick on Mexican American and Native Americans for the Ethnic Studies ban—YET, he leaves the public charter schools that are run by h1-b visa teachers with THICK accents alone. That Sonoran Science Academy is run by Turkish men (no women, they are sexists as well as racist)
    They teach Turkish language, dancing, singing and the kids go to Turkey
    Isn’t that ethnic studies?
    Last week we learned in the Arizona Star that the principals and other people at Sonoran Science Academy contributed money $$$ to Tom Horne’s campaign. Is this a concidence that they are somehow left alone to indoctrinate children at this Islamic Gulen Madrassas but the American teachers get treated unfairly?

  2. ohohmrbill
    October 31, 2010 at 4:04 am #

    Tom Horne accepts bribes in order not to enforce his own law of Banning Ethnic Studies and auditing teachers with thick accents who teach in public schools. Under the no child left behind act Tom Horn has Audited American citizens (teachers) within TUSD and had them removed from classrooms. Also under his own law of banning Ethnic Studies programs in Arizona Tom Horne has turned a blind eye to Sonaran Science Academy who promotes Turkish nationalism through language studies, Turkish dance clubs, Turkish Art classes and a Turkish club for both parents and students. Sonoran Science Academy is a public charter and is not exempt to the law. Numerous complaints have gone to the The Arizona State Board of Charter Schools which Sonoran Science Academy sits on the Board of Directors. Which is one way they protect themselves from complaints, and complaints to the Board of Education has also been submitted. Not to mention letters and emails written to Tom Horne about this school. So why would a school donate campaign funds to the one person that could effect the staffing and moral of there school? I guess one can buy a little protection from the wrath of Tom Horne.

    Contributions to Tom Horne’s campaign for Attorney General

    $808 Jan 4, 2010
    Fatih Karatas (Principal, Sonoran Science Academy; Associate Superintendent, Daisy Education Corporation)

    $808 Feb 3, 2010
    Mehmet Argin (Former Principal, Sonoran Science Academy; Superintendent, Daisy Education Corporation)

    $808 Feb 5, 2010
    Ridvan Bircicek (Sonoran Science Academy, Paragon Science Academy)

    $400 Oct 3, 2010
    Turkan Argin (wife of Mehmet Argin)

    I guess Tom Horne will offer you his protection for the right price.