PHOENIX (CN) – The ACLU demanded that the Arizona Department of Education provide it with documents on the new state law that will ban ethnic studies programs in public schools. The civil rights group claims that House Bill 2281 “is simply a new tactic for the age-old problem of government censorship.”
“Rather than taking the Texas approach and rewriting history books or pulling books off the library shelves, this law gives state education officials unlimited power to dictate what is politically acceptable content for the classroom,” the ACLU said in a statement announcing its FOIA demand. “They have used their positions of authority to stifle important discussions they disagree with and in doing so are infringing on the First Amendment rights of students and teachers to access information. The public has a right to know how the state plans to enforce HB 2281 and what impact it will have on students across the state.”
Texas recently rewrote its curriculum standards to require that social studies and history textbooks include more information about Republicans, including, for instance, Phyllis Schlaffly’s campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment.
H.B. 2281, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law on May 31, prohibits public schools from teaching subjects that “advocate ethnic solidarity.” The state can punish schools that disobey by taking 10 percent of their state funding away.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne made the news recently for allegedly pressuring Tucson United School District to end its ethnic studies programs. Horne said the district’s Latino studies program “teaches a kind of destructive ethnic chauvinism,” according to the ACLU, whose FOIA demand includes any state investigations or communications with the Tucson district about its ethnic studies programs.