The California Department of Education said it would remove Aztec and Ashe chants from its state curriculum Thursday after backlash from parents who believed their inclusion to be unconstitutional.
The state must notify charter schools, school districts and county education offices about the removal of the chants as part of the outcome of a lawsuit filed by California parents who argued that elements of the state’s ethnic studies model curriculum were unconstitutional, according to a Jan. 3 settlement. The California Department of Education and the state board of education will also stop encouraging use of the chants in its public schools, according to the settlement.
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law in October 2021 that requires high school students to take an ethnic studies course in order to graduate.
The Thomas More Society sued the state board of education on behalf of the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation in September 2021 over the ethnic studies curriculum, believing it to be illegal to teach religion in the manner encouraged by the curriculum in public schools. The chants at the core of the parents’ lawsuit over the ethnic studies program invoke religious gods and deities, allegedly forcing students to pray to Aztec gods, according to the lawsuit.
A draft statement notifying state entities of the changes says “No ESMC content should be used as prayer, or any other form of religious act, and any such use of the ESMC content would contravene the SBE’s longstanding policy and guidance,” according to the settlement.
One of the goals of the curriculum is to connect students “to past and contemporary social movements that struggle for social justice and an equitable and democratic society; and conceptualize, imagine, and build new possibilities for a post-racist, post-systemic racism society that promotes collective narratives of transformative resistance, critical hope, and radical healing,” according to Cal Matters.
The curriculum advises teachers to instruct students to “challenge racist, bigoted, discriminatory, imperialist/colonial beliefs” and challenge “white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression,” which purportedly allows teachers to inspire their students to engage in “social movements that struggle for social justice” and “build new possibilities for a post-racist, post-systemic racism society,” according to City Journal.
“Our clients have both a religious and civic objection to the Aztec prayer, and they do not want their children chanting it, being asked or pressured to do so, or risking ostracism if they refuse,” Paul Jonna, counsel for the Thomas More Society told the Daily Wire. “Under both the California and the United States Constitutions, they have the right to expect all branches of the state government, including the State Board of Education and the Department of Education, to respect this choice. Furthermore, all Californians have the right to expect that tax-supported public schools will not aid or promote this religion.”
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