SMMUSD HDQTRS — Getting in on a trend among local elected bodies, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education is the latest local entity to boycott the state of Arizona over its tough new anti-illegal immigration measure that critics have said may lead to racial profiling.
The school board unanimously adopted a ban on official travel to Arizona and a boycott of businesses located there to protest SB1070, a state bill signed into law in April that requires Arizona police officers to check immigration papers if they suspect someone they’ve stopped on suspicion of committing another crime could also be in the country illegally.
It was unclear whether the district has any existing contracts or pending business with companies that would be affected by the boycott, which the board adopted at its meeting on June 18.
The SMMUSD board joins City Hall and the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees in formally objecting to Arizona’s law.
“Our school district embodies the principle of social justice,” said Board Member Oscar de la Torre, who proposed the boycott. “It’s in our vision statement, and also we believe that diversity is our strength as a nation … and the law in Arizona demonizes immigrants, in particular people of color.”
At the same time it adopted the boycott, the board also took aim at another recently passed Arizona law, HB2281, which bans schools from teaching courses that are geared toward a particular ethnic group, promote resentment or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals. The bill also bans classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.
School districts that fail to comply with the law could lose state education funding.
In response to the bill, which was signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in May, SMMUSD board members directed district staff to explore ways to strengthen ethnic studies programs in local schools.
De la Torre said the district already has an ethnic studies program that includes a school-sponsored retreat called Racial Harmony that teaches kids about the negative impacts of racial stereotypes, and high school classes on Chicano and Chicana literature and the Harlem Renaissance.