Judge denies part of Arkansas LEARNS lawsuit, partially sides with plaintiffs

Judge denies part of Arkansas LEARNS lawsuit, partially sides with plaintiffs

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A judge has denied part of a lawsuit that requests a federal court to block a section of the Arkansas LEARNS Act, while also partly siding with the ones who filed the lawsuit.

In a 50-page ruling, the judge ordered that the Central High School teachers involved in the lawsuit against the state cannot be disciplined or prevented from teaching topics regarding Critical Race Theory.

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The lawsuit claims that section 16 of the LEARNS Act is unconstitutionally vague and violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The state used the section as part of its decision last year not to count pilot AP African American Studies courses toward state graduation requirements.

The state argues that the law isn’t to prohibit certain topics or ideas, but instead looks to prevent teachers from forcing indoctrination on a student and punishing them for not accepting those ideas.

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In the order, the judge said:

“This Order as a whole should give comfort to teachers across the state (and to their students) that Section 16 does not prohibit teachers from teaching about, using, or referring to Critical Race Theory or any other theory, ideology, or idea so long as the teachers do not compel their students to accept as valid such theory, ideology, or idea.”

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Attorney General Tim Griffin released a statement soon after that said:

“Today’s decision confirms what I’ve said all along. Arkansas law doesn’t prohibit teaching the history of segregation, the civil rights movement, or slavery. I’m pleased that the District Court entirely rejected the Plaintiffs’ vagueness claims. And the very limited injunction merely prohibits doing what Arkansas was never doing in the first place. I look forward to continuing our enforcement of the statute as written rather than as Plaintiffs would choose to wrongly interpret it.”

Plaintiffs Attorney David Hinojosa, Director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, said:

“The court’s ruling makes it clear that students’ right to receive information and ideas was violated. Judge Rudofsky has issued a partial injunction ensuring that the State does not arbitrarily enforce the LEARNS Act against teachers in the case in a way that would unlawfully deny students their right to information. The court’s ruling has essentially gutted Arkansas’ classroom censorship law to render the law virtually meaningless. Governor Sanders and Secretary of Education Jacob Oliva had already walked back the law in their response briefing, stating that Critical Race Theory could be taught in Arkansas’ classrooms. Judge Rudofsky further narrows the scope of the LEARNS Act so that students won’t be forced to learn a false version of this country’s history of discrimination or continuing struggles with racial justice. The ruling should provide teachers greater comfort in teaching the truth, and challenging students to broaden their perspectives.”

The full order can be read at ArkansasAG.gov.

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