AZ bill bans ‘social justice’ classes, events at public schools, universities

Victor Skinner,

PHOENIX – An Arizona state lawmakers wants to impose funding cuts to public schools and universities that promote divisive social justice curriculums, events and activities.

Rep. Bob Thorpe recently introduced legislation to expand on state law that bans ethnic studies courses that promote resentment toward other races that would add bans for classes and activities that divide students based on gender, religion, political affiliation or social class, Capitol Media Services reports.

HB 2120, which Thorpe said “is Draft No. 1,” would prohibit schools from promoting such classes and events, as well as those that “negatively target specific nationalities or countries,” and authorize the state’s attorney general to withhold up to 10 percent of state aid to those that refuse.

The bill takes aim at exercises like University of Arizona’s “privilege walk” – which tasks students with certain “privileges” like being white or living in a home with books to step forward while those who take a bus or have a single parent step back, according to the news site.

arizschools_small AZ bill bans ‘social justice’ classes, events at public schools, universities Schools

Thorpe, a Republican from Flagstaff, also pointed to Arizona State University’s “Whiteness and Race Theory” course as another example.

“The gains that were made in the 1960s are now being eroded,” he said. “We’re not finding ways to divide people and put wedges between people.”

“Somebody is being classified as being less of an individual based upon their social classification, a classification being placed on them, the ZIP code they grew up in, whether their parents were successful in business or not,” Thorpe said.

“I’m not saying in my bill these classes cannot occur,” he added. “What I’m saying is taxpayers should not have to pay for them.”

HB 2120 expands provisions of current state law that prohibit public K-12 schools from offering classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote division or resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designated primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals” that was adopted to target Mexican studies courses in the Tucson Unified School District.

The added language in HB 2120 broadens the scope to state universities and adds provisions for “classes, events and activities” that promote “division,” or “social justice” toward a particular “gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class” of people.

It also includes prohibition against classes, events or activities that “negatively target specific nationalities or countries” that’s intended to counter anti-Israel attitudes prevalent on many college campuses.

The proposed bill specifically states it does not restrict or prohibit “courses, classes, events or activities for Native American students that are required to comply with federal law,” “grouping of students according to academic performance, including capability in the English language,” or lessons that “include the accurate history of any ethnic group and that are open to all students,” with the exception of those that violate other provisions of the proposed law.

“This section does not restrict or prohibit the instruction of the Holocaust, any other instance of genocide, or the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on ethnicity, race or class,” according to the bill.

The current state law targeting TUSD’s ethnic studies courses was challenged by the school district and is awaiting trial after the “9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2015 there is evidence the statute was enacted for discriminatory reasons,” according to Capitol Media Services.

Thorpe has also introduced legislation – HB 2119 – that would penalize community colleges and state universities that offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants granted deferred deportation under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which he created through executive action, the Associated Press reports.

It is illegal in Arizona to offer DACA students in-state tuition, but several schools have defied the law and are challenging it in court. HB 2119 would also allow the state to withhold state funding for those schools.

Of course, not everyone is a big fan of Thorpe’s bills.

Democratic state Sen. Martin Quezada described the legislation as “scary stuff.”

“So if you’ve got a student activity celebrating the 16th of September, the traditional Mexican Independence Day, and just having a prideful celebration, that would be impacted by this,” he told the AP. “It would really put in danger teaching about the causes of the Civil War, those types of things.”

“It’s beyond just bad policy, this is a scary type of very Eurocentric type of thinking that we should have moved beyond as a nation a long time ago,” Quezada said.

Thorpe, meanwhile, argues the legislation is simply about doing the right thing.

“The intention of the bill is Martin Luther King,” he said. “The strides that we made in the 1960s I think are being diluted.”

“The message that needs to be sent to our state funded institutions is, ‘Please be in compliance with state law,’” Thope added. “I hope that these are never used.”