SES Statement on Tashima Ruling: The Path Forward
Late in the afternoon of March 8, 2013 Judge Tashima issued the long anticipated ruling concerning the pending motions for summary judgment. The motions were initially submitted in 2011 and argued in March of 2012.
The plaintiffs' motion sought to invalidate HB 2281 (A.R.S. § 15-111 and 112) as unconstitutional because it is impermissibly vague and overbroad, precluding speech and infringing students' "right to receive" under the First Amendment. Although Judge Tashima recognized that the students' First Amendment rights in the classroom were at stake, and found one provision of the statute unconstitutional, A.R.S. § 15-112(a)(3) - "classes designed primarily for pupils of a particular group ethnic group", the decision left intact the remainder of the law that was used to prohibit the teaching of Mexican American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District.
The Acosta/Arce case is not over. The immediate task is to decide what is the next step: seek reconsideration of the decision or file an appeal to the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision will be made within the next few days. It was always understood that this case would end up before the Ninth Circuit, and we have been preparing for this inevitable step for the past year. We have assembled a legal team that includes professors from the Seattle University Law School and the Bingham McCutchen law firm. Their contributions to the appellate process will be invaluable.
Once an appeal is filed, briefing will be submitted by both sides and a hearing will occur. This step will likely take about 18 to 24 months. The legal process is never as quick as we all hope for. This is especially true when important constitutional rights are at stake.
The effort to invalidate HB 2281 will continue. Too much is at stake. The right of every student to learn and teacher to teach the history, literature and culture of Latinos in Arizona is currently prohibited. Mexican American Studies proved to be a valuable educational program that instilled students with a positive academic identity. Much better academic skills, grades, graduation rates along with increased matriculation to college consistently occurred in every year the program was offered.
The mandate to successfully educate every student irrespective color, gender, culture or economic status is in crisis. As a nation we have failed miserably to reach this goal. We can and must do better. Ethnic studies provide a critical curricular option that must be available to every school district to consider, implement and maintain.
HB 2281 is the product of fear and a profound misunderstanding of the role of culture, language and history. These are areas of learning that do not divide us as a nation but provide a vehicle to promote understanding, respect and success. We cannot allow this fear to spread to other jurisdictions and eliminate important programs that already exist or the development of new programs.
The American dream has always included the universal hope that our children do better than we did. Irrespective of color, gender, culture or language every student must have the right to know who she is and how she fits into our complex and challenging society.
The path to obtain and maintain our civil liberties is continuous. In this lucha we all move forward. Your support is vital. Stand with us united in our common effort to be make our nation "a more perfect union".
The educators, students and community of Save Ethnic Studies.