A federal judge has ordered the Tucson Unified School District to end segregation and implement culturally relevant courses such as the ones taught in the Mexican American Studies program that were recently banned by an Arizona law.
In his ruling announced Wednesday, Judge David C. Bury ordered that the courses reflect the history, experience and culture of Mexican American and African American communities. The courses could be offered to students starting this upcoming school year.
Nancy Ramirez, a lead attorney in the case, applauded Judge Bury’s order, saying culturally relevant courses have been proven to “engage students and helps them do better academically.”
Mexican American Studies could make a comeback
Arizona banned such courses in 2010 when the state legislature passed and Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law HB 2281. Efforts to pass the law were led by former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who is now the state’s attorney general.
The law, which targeted the Mexican American Studies program, prohibits schools to teach classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote racial resentment, encourage ethnic solidarity and are designed for students of a particular ethnic race.
In 2011, Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal declared that the courses taught under the Mexican American Studies program violated the new state law and forced the program to shut down. Last July, the program revived. It’s name was changed and the culturally relevant courses were no longer taught.
But Judge Bury ruled Wednesday that the courses could be reinstated and that Arizona could not intervene in the case to litigate the issue, because the ruling doesn’t override the Arizona law banning these courses.
“Even if it did–the Supreme Court has held that state laws cannot be allowed to impede a desegregation order,” the court order reads.
In a statement emailed to VOXXI, Huppenthal responded to Judge Bury’s ruling saying, “We anticipated that the Tucson school district would respond to the previous administrative law judge findings by building a culturally relevant curriculum that complies with state law.”
“We have two roles going forward, first to review this curriculum they develop to ensure it complies with state standards and state law; and secondly to ensure what they teach in the classroom does not violate state law,” Huppenthal added.