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Gonzalez v. Douglas

United States District Court for the District of Arizona
269 F.Supp.3d 948 (2017)


Facts

A lawsuit in the 1970s desegregated the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). A consent decree put in place in 1978 required TUSD to remediate the detrimental effects of past discrimination. In 1998, TUSD started a Mexican American Studies (MAS) program to further remedial efforts. The program improved the academic performance of students enrolled in its classes, who were almost all Latino. In 2006, students protested a Republican-Latino-oriented speech put together by TUSD’s superintendent, Tom Horne. Horne decided that MAS teachers had organized the protest. After reading a student-organization website supposedly promoting revolution against the government, Horne recommended terminating the MAS program without investigating what its classes actually taught. When TUSD refused, Horne lobbied for state legislation prohibiting schools from teaching classes designed for a particular ethnicity, or that promoted racial resentment, ethnic solidarity, or overthrowing the government. The statute gave the superintendent discretion to withhold 10 percent of the district’s funding unless it complied. On Horne’s last weekday as superintendent, he gave TUSD 60 days to eliminate the MAS program, ignoring three other ethnic studies programs. Former state senator Huppenthal, who succeeded Horne, delayed the statute’s effective date to take credit for eliminating the MAS program in what he called “the eternal battle of all time, the forces of collectivism against the forces of individual liberty.” Huppenthal penalized TUSD the 10 percent maximum, effectively forcing it to end the program. Horne and Huppenthal highlighted efforts to end the MAS program in their campaigns. In 2014, TUSD developed a new ethnic studies program under the directive to attain unitary status, but Huppenthal decided the new program also violated the anti-ethnic studies statute. Horne (then Arizona’s attorney general) tried to intervene on the state’s behalf to object to the new program in court. Students and parents (plaintiffs) sued the superintendent and school board (defendants), arguing that the anti-ethnic studies statute was unconstitutional. Horne and Huppenthal testified that they had no racial animus and that their efforts were not political. However, the evidence showed that Huppenthal wrote anonymous blog posts plainly showing anti-Mexican American attitudes.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tashima, J.)

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