A U.S. District Court judge has made official what TUSD Mexican American Studies supporters have known for years: Tom Horne and John Huppenthal were motivated to destroy the successful academic program for two reasons: racial discrimination against Latinos and their own political glorification.
U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima writes: “Having thus ruled out any pedagogical motivation, the Court is convinced that decisions regarding the MAS program were motivated by a desire to advance a political agenda by capitalizing on race-based fears.”
Reading the saga laid out in the court’s decision memo, the examples of racial disregard for Mexican Americans are repeated and clear. There is a Keystone Cops quality to Horne and Huppenthal’s bureaucratic contortions. But there’s nothing funny to redeem them in the end.
Horne’s crusade began in 2006. He was then the state superintendent (and later the state attorney general) and he was offended by what he thought was “rude” behavior of some high school students.
Horne was offended that labor activist Dolores Huerta said “Republicans hate Latinos” at a Tucson High School assembly.
Horne, a Republican, called it hate speech and sent his deputy to make a speech in response. Some students refused to attend, some taped their mouths closed, some turned their backs.
Free speech. In a high school, of all places. The nerve.
At the event Horne saw a school librarian wearing a T-shirt with M.E.Ch.A — which is the Spanish acronym for “Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan” — a community organizing group. He looked it up and decided it was subversive.
Just think, if that school librarian had been wearing a Nike “Just Do It” T-shirt instead, maybe Arizona schools would have ended up with medically accurate sex ed classes.
The fight to kill MAS was a political gambit from the get-go. Both men used it as a badge of honor in their campaigns, describing their “war” and “crusades” against the subversive anti-American “La Raza” forces invading our schools. Huppenthal testified that the term “Raza” became “shorthand for ... communicating with Republican primary voters.”
Long story short, Horne and Huppenthal, also a Republican, got a law passed, which included prohibiting classes designed for particular ethnic groups, and then decided that TUSD had been violating it.
In the end, TUSD eliminated its MAS program and has replaced it with “culturally relevant” course material. It was that, or lose millions as punishment.
Horne and Huppenthal were found to have violated the plaintiffs’ 14th and First Amendment rights.
They violated far more than that. Horne and Huppenthal stole from students, particularly Latino students, the knowledge and belief that they belong, that their families’ experiences are the American story, that our history is just that — our history.
There isn’t enough space here to recount all the ways Horne and Huppenthal manipulated their elected offices for their own ends.
Huppenthal was caught, while state superintendent, posting anonymously on a blog likening MAS classes to Hitler’s rise, ranting against the use of Spanish, and posting “I don’t mind them selling Mexican food as long as the menus are mostly in English.”
How can any student or family, no matter their background, have faith in the system when that trash is coming from the top?
This travesty boils down to two heart-breaking and infuriating lines from the court memo, on page 38:
“Horne himself admitted that he did not enforce the statute against the Asian-American studies program in Tucson because he ‘was told that it was academically an excellent program.’ Although Horne and Huppenthal were told that the MAS program was academically excellent, they refused to believe it.”