News Column

Judge Denies Request To Reinstate Mexican-American Studies

March 6, 2012

Alexis Huicochea

Hispanic student

A federal judge has rejected a request to reinstate Tucson Unified School District's contentious Mexican American Studies courses.

The request was filed last month by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of the Latino plaintiffs in TUSD's decades-old desegregation case.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge David Bury was backed by special master Willis Hawley -- the man charged with overseeing the development and implementation of TUSD's new plan to bring its schools into racial balance.

For more than 30 years, TUSD operated under a federal court order to desegregate its schools before the order was lifted in 2009. At that time, TUSD began operating under a post-unitary plan that established a good-faith commitment to the future operation of the district.

A portion of the plan called for the expansion of Mexican American Studies, which is what the Latino plaintiffs argued in requesting the courses be restored.

Though the post-unitary plan is still in place, Hawley was brought on board to create a new plan after it was determined TUSD did not act in good-faith compliance while it was under the desegregation decree, and that court oversight would be resumed.

Despite the plaintiffs' argument, the judge and Hawley agreed that the discontinuation of the classes does not violate the post-unitary plan.

Hawley reported to Bury that the new plan he is developing will include comprehensive strategies for meeting the academic and social development needs of Mexican-American students in the district.

In response to Hawley's memo to Bury, the Latino plaintiffs filed a notice of their intent to object to the decision that the classes not be reinstated.

Bury ruled that the plaintiffs can file an objection, but said he would not delay Hawley's work in the development of a new unitary status plan in the meantime.

For Sylvia Campoy, a representative for the Latino plaintiffs, the decision is a disappointing one.

"The injustice pertaining to (Mexican American Studies) seems so very obvious, so painfully tangible -- it is difficult to understand why it is not visible to those who could easily remedy the situation," Campoy said.

Tucson Unified School District eliminated the classes in January amid the threat of losing millions of dollars in state funding from Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal, who declared the courses illegal.

Source: (c) 2012 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.)

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