Freedom to Read Foundation files brief in lawsuit challenging Arizona’s Ethnic Studies ban
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Posted by: Jonathan Kelley
November 26, 2013
Barbara M. Jones
The Freedom to Read Foundation
(FTRF) yesterday joined with several other library, education, and free speech
organizations in filing an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals in Arce v. Huppenthal, a lawsuit challenging the
constitutionality of Arizona Revised Statute § 15-112(A). The brief
argues that the statute, which led to the disbanding of Tucson’s Mexican
American Studies (MAS) program, violates Arizona students’ First Amendment
rights to receive information and is unconstitutionally overbroad.
Following the law’s 2010 passage,
the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) was notified that its MAS program
violated the statute. Facing the
prospect of losing a significant amount of state funding, TUSD had no real
choice other than to dismantle the program. As a result, the MAS program ceased to exist and books were removed from classrooms and banned from use in
A federal lawsuit, including students
from the MAS program, was filed challenging the statute on both First Amendment
and Equal Protection grounds. The federal district court rejected the
State’s claim that curriculum decisions constitute "government speech” over
which they have absolute discretion and held that the statute’s ban on courses
that are "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” was
unconstitutional. Nonetheless, the court upheld the rest of the statute,
finding it did not violate the First Amendment, nor was it overly broad.
The student plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit and invited FTRF to submit
an amicus brief.
submitting this brief, the Freedom to Read Foundation is standing up for the right
of all Arizona students to a curriculum based on educational merit, not
political motivation,” said Executive Director Barbara M. Jones.
"Students in the MAS program improved their educational performance. And
there is no evidence that those students learned 'racial resentment' or discovered an interest
in 'overthrowing the U.S. government,' as the proponents of Arizona HB 2281 contended.
Providing young people with access to a wide range of ideas, including those
about different cultures, helps them to think critically, become better
citizens, and succeed in family and workplace life. Censoring ideas
promotes ignorance and fear.”
Joining FTRF in the suit are the
American Library Association, American Booksellers Association for Free
Expression, Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, Black Caucus of the
American Library Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, National
Association for Ethnic Studies, National Coalition Against Censorship, National
Council of Teachers of English, and REFORMA: The National Association to
Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.
To view the amicus brief, visit www.ftrf.org/?Current_Cases.
Founded in 1969, the Freedom to Read Foundation is a
non-profit legal and educational organization affiliated with the American
Library Association. FTRF protects and defends the First Amendment to the
Constitution and supports the right of libraries to collect—and individuals to