Educators file suit against ethnic studies ban

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“¡La lucha sigue!” The struggle continues. This is one of the truths students in the Tucson Unified School District enrolled in Mexican-American Studies are discovering as the program’s advocates and political enemies get entangled in the latest culturally rooted debate in Arizona.

Late last month, the program’s director and 11 teachers filed a legal challenge against H.B. 2281, which Gov. Brewer signed into law in May. The law specifically prohibits courses either designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity over the treatment of pupils as individuals.

The legal challenge claims the law is aimed at Hispanics and would violate the plaintiffs’ rights of equal protection, free speech and due process. Defendants are Tom Horne and the State Board of Education.

The battle over the Republican-conceived law could get complicated in the courts. Attorney Richard Martinez, who represents the plaintiffs, said he intends to stop the law from being implemented.

Martinez told LP Journal that Horne’s public statements against Mexican-American students learning about their culture and history form a good basis for bias. And the law is specific about banning messages advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. government and promoting ethnic solidarity.“There’s no basis for this law,” says Martinez.

On topic, a documentary about the ethnic studies ban is currently in postproduction. Called Precious Knowledge, the film has received funding from PBS and other foundations, but is about $20,000 short of the budget required to finish it.

Tucson-based Dos Vatos Productions, founded by Ari Luis Palos and Eren Isabel McGinnis, is behind the film and has released a trailer that portrays the emotional debate. You can check out the trailer  at

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