Attorney General Tom Horne Wins Federal District Court Case Against Tucson Ethnic Studies Program

Phoenix (Monday, March 11) – Arizona’s law prohibiting courses that teach ethnic solidarity, rather than treating other students as individuals, was upheld as constitutional in a Federal District Court ruling issued Friday. The law was held to be constitutional, with one minor exception, Section (A)(3). The case was personally argued by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne in Federal District Court in Tucson.

In a statement Horne said, “This is a victory for ensuring that public education is not held captive to radical, political elements and that students treat each other as individuals - not on the basis of the race they were born into.”

Enforcement of the law resulted in cancellation of Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American Studies Program after an independent Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that the program presented material in a “biased, political, and emotionally charged manner.” The ALJ also stated: “Teaching in such a manner promotes social or political activism against the white people, promotes racial resentment, and advocates ethnic solidarity instead of treating peoples as individuals.”

The State law prohibits courses if they violate any one of four prohibitions, including “promote resentment toward a race or a class of people”, “are designed primarily for peoples of a particular ethnic group”, or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of peoples as individuals.” The Court found only “designed primarily for peoples of a particular ethnic group” to be unconstitutionally vague, and upheld the other standards under which Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies Program was eliminated.

The Statute was challenged on numerous grounds, including violation of free speech, and unconstitutional vagueness – they were denied. The Court held that the State’s legitimate concern here was to reduce racism, as set forth in the declaration of policy in the statute that states: “The legislature finds and declares that public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not to be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.” The Court found that the prohibitions in the statute are reasonably related to the goal of reducing racism at the schools.  

In a related action, another Federal Law Judge had issued a ruling in the Tucson desegregation case calling for the development of culturally relevant courses, an Order that has been appealed by Attorney General Horne. However, that Order also stated: “The State is free to enforce its laws as it did in 2011 when it took action against TUSD for Mexican-American Studies courses, if it believes any culturally relevant courses developed and implemented in TUSD violate state law.”

A copy of the Order issued on Friday is attached.

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