PHOENIX (AP) – A federal trial considering whether an Arizona law that shuttered a popular Mexican-American studies program in Tucson was enacted with discriminatory intent resumes this week and will include testimony from the man behind the effort to end the program.
Former Arizona schools chief Tom Horne, who was behind the battle against the program the year that lawmakers passed the state’s landmark immigration law, is scheduled to testify on Tuesday. He also defended the law that restricts ethnic studies courses in public schools as the state’s former attorney general, saying it helped keep “radical” curriculum out of classrooms.
The 2010 law prohibits courses if they 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.
It effectively ended the Mexican-American studies program at the Tucson Unified School District, launching protests by students and parents who felt the courses were important and improved performance in school.
A group of students sued the state over the ban, saying it was overly broad and violates the right of free speech.
Most of the law has been upheld by the courts, but a judge will now determine whether it was enacted with discriminatory intent.
“The legislative history makes clear that the statute while, broader in nature, was directed at the Mexican-American studies program,” plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Quinn said.
Arizona denies that the law was enacted with racial discrimination.
“With respect to TUSD’s MAS program, the evidence shows that concerns existed that the program was based on a divisive, separatist, politicized pedagogy that taught students to see themselves as exemplars of an oppressed ethnicity…