Ruling On Arizona Ethnic Studies Law Appealed

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JOHN HUPPENTHAL
Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal announces that the Tucson Unified School District violates state law by teaching it's Mexican American Studies Department's ethic studies program at a news conference at the Arizona Department of Education Wednesday, June 15, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Mexican American Studies curriculum banned from Tucson classrooms will have another day in court.

In March, a federal court largely upheld an Arizona state law used to shut down the controversial classes that conservative legislators accused of politicizing Latino students. As expected, students and parents suing Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal and other state officials filed an appeal of the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Arizona Daily Star reported Thursday.

The appeal argues that when Huppenthal ordered the program to be shut down, he arbitrarily disregarded the input of Tucson school district officials, education experts and independent audit, violating the First and 14th amendments, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Tucson’s dismantled Mexican American Studies curriculum drew praise from supporters for boosting student achievement in the majority-Latino school district.

But conservative politicians, led by then-State Sen. Huppenthal and then-Superintendent of Public Education Tom Horne accused the teachers of stirring resentment against whites -- an accusation the teachers deny.

Horne and Huppenthal led the effort to pass a 2010 law that banned from public schools courses that advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government, that foster racial resentment, or that are designed for students of a particular ethnicity.

A state-commissioned independent audit recommended the expansion of the Mexican American Studies program in 2011, citing its success in engaging students and fostering advanced critical thinking skills. Huppenthal disputed the audit and ordered the district to shut the Mexican American Studies program down or lose 10 percent of its state funding -- some $14 million over the fiscal year.

Tucson Unified School District complied in January of 2012. School administrators plucked seven titles -- all but one by Latino authors -- from the city’s classrooms and prohibited them from instruction. The books remained off limits until the school board voted 3 to 2 to un-ban them last month.

Former teachers of the suspended classes challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s ethnic studies law in court, saying it was overly broad, vague and discriminatory. But federal judge Wallace Tashima upheld the law in a March ruling, striking down only the provision that classes cannot be designed for students of a particular ethnicity.

“I was really surprised at the decision,” Jose Gonzalez, a former teacher of Tucson's suspended Mexican-American Studies classes, told The Huffington Post in March. “But as a student and teacher of history, I know in civil rights cases like this there’s always setbacks.”

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