Race

Arizona Invites More Ethnic Controversy with New School Law

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

Arizona has opened itself up again to cries of racial and ethnic discrimination by passing a new law that limits ethnic studies programs in the state's public schools. This comes a few weeks after the controversial immigration law that critics say will lead to racial profiling.

The new law bans schools from teaching classes that promote resentment towards any particular ethnic group.

The law was drawn up in response to a Mexican-American studies program in the Tucson school district. State schools chief Tom Horne said he believes the program teaches Latino students that they are oppressed by white people.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law on Tuesday. "The governor believes ... public school students should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people," spokesman Paul Senseman said.

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In addition to banning programs that promote resentment, the law prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity and that are designed primarily for students of a particular race. The measure does not restrict classes that teach about the history of a particular ethnic group, as long as the course is open to all students and doesn't promote ethnic solidarity or resentment.

The Tucson Unified School District program offers courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature, and include information about the influence of a particular ethnic group.

District officials said the program doesn't promote resentment, and they believe it would comply with the new law.

Sean Arce, director of the district's Mexican-American Studies program, said, "It's a highly engaging program that we have, and it's unfortunate that the state Legislature would go so far as to censor these classes."

Horne said the program promotes "ethnic chauvinism" and racial resentment toward. He's been trying to restrict it ever since he learned that a Hispanic civil rights activist told students in 2006 that "Republicans hate Latinos." Horne is a Republican who is running for Attorney General.

About 1,500 students at six high schools are enrolled in the Tucson district's program.