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L.A. Board of Education condemns Arizona immigration and ethnic studies laws

June 1, 2010 |  8:16 pm

The local school system has joined the list of Los Angeles entities to oppose Arizona’s new law aimed at curbing illegal immigration.

The L.A. Board of Education voted 6-0 late Tuesday afternoon to condemn an Arizona law that requires law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to lack proper immigration papers in Arizona.

“It’s very important for us to take a position of outrage,” said school board member Yolie Flores. “Because of the color of your skin and the accent you speak with, you will be targeted. You will be asked if you belong here.…Taking a position against that kind of racism is appropriate.”

The school board resolution says the Arizona law “effectively sanctions and promotes unconstitutional racial profiling and harassment, and blatantly violates the civil rights of both Arizona residents and all visitors to the state.”

Before the vote, Flores said she had just hosted family members visiting from Arizona who feel terrorized by the law even though they are U.S. citizens.

About 73% of the district’s students are Latino. About a third are learning English.

“Our students are dramatically affected by this,” said school board member Steve Zimmer. "It has caused a great deal of stress, uncertainty, questions that are brought in to the classroom every day.”

District officials also targeted an Arizona bill that, in the words of the resolution, “prohibits public schools from teaching ethnic studies, a ban that further reinforces the intolerant, discriminatory and racist philosophy embodied” in the immigration measure.

The second Arizona bill, which takes effect next year, bars classes that promote the overthrow of the government, promote “resentment toward a race or class of people,” are designed “primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” and “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

The L.A. Unified measure stopped short of an immediate economic boycott. Instead, it directed schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines to recommend “additional steps ... to curtail any economic support” of Arizona in the form of district-sponsored employee travel or contracts with firms based in Arizona.

The resolution also called on Cortines to ensure that civics and history classes discuss the Arizona laws “in the context of the American values of unity, diversity and equal protection for all.”

“There’s a conversation in this country around the rights of people, and students are a part of it,” said school board president Monica Garcia.

The issue would, in essence, be dealt with in a manner similar to the way other broadly accepted episodes of racial and cultural intolerance and discrimination are discussed, said district spokesman Robert Alaniz.

He cited as examples the Jim Crow laws that denied rights to African Americans and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Other school districts have taken similar actions with regard to the immigration law. The Denver Public Schools and the San Diego Unified School District have barred employees from attending work-related conferences in Arizona.

-- Howard Blume

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