The Californians for Equal Rights Foundation and three San Diego parents filed suit Friday, claiming the state’s new ethnic studies curriculum includes Aztec and Ashe “affirmations” that are actually prayers and are in violation of the California Constitution.
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The suit names the California Department of Education, state Board of Education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and the state of California as co-defendants.
The plaintiffs allege that the ethnic studies curriculum promotes five Aztec gods and the Yoruba religion through repetitive chanting and affirmation of symbolic principles, which “constitutes an unlawful government preference toward a particular religious practice,” Frank Xu, president of the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, said in a news release.
The foundation is the offshoot of a ballot measure committee created to defeat last year’s Proposition 16 that would have allowed employers, universities and other agencies to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and country of origin in hiring, enrollment, and contracting decisions. It would have overturned Proposition 209, which ended affirmative action in public education, employment, and contracting in 1996.
Xu called the ethnic studies curriculum “California’s Trojan horse of CRT.”
CRT is the acronym for critical race theory, which asserts that race is not biological but instead is socially constructed to oppress people of color. The teaching of critical race theory is a hot political topic.
California Department of Education spokesman Scott Roark said the department had not yet reviewed the foundation’s lawsuit and could not comment on it.
Fresno Unified School District did not immediately provide information on whether the curriculum is in use in district schools. Spokeswoman Nikki Henry said this week said that students are taught about the Aztec and West African religions, “similar to history/social science courses.” But no students are directed to recite the affirmations, she said.
Clovis Unified spokeswoman Kelly Avants said she didn’t believe the curriculum is in use in district schools but was double-checking. She later confirmed that the curriculum is not being used by the district.
Also in School Zone:
- Fresno County student artists and poets will be showcased at the 9/11 Memorial event.
- Five Fresno State wines earn top marks.
The foundation said the Aztec prayer gives thanks to five deities, namely Tezcatlipoca (God of the Night Sky), Quetzalcoatl (God of the Morning and Evening Star), Huitzilopochtli (God of Sun and War), Xipe Totec (God of Spring), and Hunab Ku (God of the Universe), and is part of the curriculum being used by several California school districts, including the two largest, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified.
The parent plaintiffs are Eric Gonzales, whose child is a student in San Diego Unified, Jose Velasquez, whose children have been educated in California public schools, and Steve Houbeck. According to the lawsuit, Houbeck withdrew his child from attending school in Encinitas Unified after the state Board of Education approved the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum earlier this year.
The lawsuit is the latest chapter in the state’s struggles over an ethnic studies curriculum. Earlier versions were criticized over the absence of certain ethnic groups, including Armenians and Jews.
9/11 Remembrance to Feature Student Artists and Poets
The “One Voice – The Spirit of 9/12” student event will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at the California 9/11 Memorial at 3485 Never Forget Lane, Clovis.
The event, a partnership between the Fresno County Office of the Superintendent of Schools and the California 9/11 Memorial, will showcase the finalists in an art, poetry, and logo contest with the theme emphasizing the “Spirit of 9/12.” It memorializes how all Americans came together to help each other after the terrorist attacks 20 years ago on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and the attempted takeover of United Airlines Flight 93 that led to the plane’s crash in Pennsylvania.
Two grand-prize student winners, as well as their teachers, will be selected from the 7th through 12th grade art and poetry entries and be awarded a paid trip to New York City to visit the National 9/11 Memorial.
The California 9/11 Memorial service will begin at 8:15 a.m. that day. At 8:46 a.m., the time when the first jetliner hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower, radio dispatch calls from that day will be played, followed by sirens and the lowering of the flag.
The Fresno State winery continues to get noticed and win awards. The latest: Five medals at the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association competition.
Fresno State claimed double gold medals for its 2018 Barbera and Cabernet Sauvignon wines; a gold medal for its 2019 Albariño; and silver medals for its 2018 Alicante Bouschet and 2019 Chardonnay.
Kevin Smith, winery marketing and sales director, said the medals marked the winery’s best showing in the competition in the past 10 years. “It also reflects the improved quality of our wines, thanks to the hard work that our students are putting in, and the fine fruit our winemaker, Tom Montgomery, is sourcing for us,” Smith said.
The Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wine grapes came from the Napa and Sonoma valleys, while the Albariño was produced from grapes grown along the San Joaquin River and the Alicante Bouschet from a Madera area vineyard.
Montgomery said the Fresno State vineyard produced the grapes for the double gold-winning Barbera, which made him “extra proud.”
Several of the wines were also recognized earlier this year by the San Francisco Chronicle, which awarded a gold medal to the 2019 Chardonnay and silver medals to the 2018 Alicante Bouschet, President’s Reserve Barbera, and Sargent Zinfandel wines.