Federal Judge: Arizona’s Mexican American Studies Ban Is Racist and Unconstitutional

Aug 23, 2017
5:15 PM

(Photo by Bryan Parras/Used with permission)

After years of fights and challenges, U.S. District Court  judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled on Tuesday that the law implemented by Arizona state to ban Mexican American Studies and other ethnic studies “was motivated by racial animus.”

Tashima’s ruling stated that the ban violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S Constitution.

“Students have a First Amendment right to receive information and ideas a right that applies in the context of school curriculum design,” the ruling said.

When the state implemented the MAS program ban, books were removed from schools.

On the Fourteen Amendment, “The passage and enforcement of the law against the MAS program were motivated by anti-Mexican-American attitudes.”

During the trial, teachers and lawyers in support of the Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program provided evidence that the state of Arizona had racist and discriminatory intentions against the curriculum. Part of the final ruling was based on evidence that Former Attorney General Tom Horne and Superintendent John Huppenthal had racist intentions to eliminate the program.

Several years ago, Huppenthal used anonymous names online to call MAS the “KKK in different color.” He criticized the program for using “the exact same technique that Hitler used to rise in power.” He also called for “No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish TV stations, no spanish newspapers. This is America speak English.”

As a result of these comments, the final ruling stated that “Huppenthal’s blog comments provide the strongest evidence that racial animus motivated the enforcement.”

After a two-week trial and a month awaiting the ruling, teachers, students and activists celebrated the victory.

“We shredded some tears because it was kind of unexpected,” Bryan Parras of Librotraficantes told Latino Rebels.

Parras traveled from Texas to Arizona to witness the first part of the trial back in June. “It’s an incredible moment. This is a cause for celebration for other groups because it provides hope for other communities fighting for justice and we are more hopeful,” Parras said.

Librotraficantes was created by Tony Diaz back in 2012. Its mission is to collect books that are banned and bring them back to the schools.

They have been in the front lines advocating for teachers and students. Here are some of the reactions from organizers:


María Camila Montañez is a journalism student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Spanish-language program. She is originally from Colombia and tweets from @mariacmontanez.