Background

In 2010, the state of Arizona made history by passing Arizona Senate Bill 1070, one of the most restrictive laws in the United States targeting and criminalizing undocumented immigrants, many of whom are of Mexican descent. Throughout that year people from all over the country stood (and marched) in solidarity with the immigrant populations and populations of color being targeted in Arizona.

A less known detail of Arizona’s attack on immigrant populations, and Mexican Americans in particular, is Arizona’s House Bill 2281, which was also signed into law in 2010 and designed to effectively ban “ethnic studies” programs in public schools. This law represents former state superintendent of public instruction and current state attorney general Tom Horne’s crusade to end the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American ethnic studies program.

In January 2011, when Tom Horne assumed his position as state attorney general, Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) Mexican American Studies program was declared in violation of HB 2281. The New York Times ran an article about Horne’s attack and students’ and educators’ struggle to maintain their program of study that focuses on Latino/a history, literature, and culture, and includes examining the history of oppression Latino/a populations have faced in the United States.

The struggle over Tucson’s ethnic studies program has continued for the past year, and most recently, on January 10, 2012, the TUSD’s school board voted 4-1 to immediately cease all Mexican American (but not other) ethnic studies classes for fear of losing state aid. In the meantime, under the banner of Save Ethnic Studies, students and teachers have pursued a federal court case to declare the law criminalizing TUSD’s MAS classes unconstitutional.