Appeal of court ruling favoring shutdown of Mexican American Studies program filed

2013-11-20T00:00:00Z Appeal of court ruling favoring shutdown of Mexican American Studies program filedBy Alexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A group of students who unsuccessfully fought to kill a law that led to the dismantling of Mexican American Studies in TUSD, and their parents, are now turning to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The group — two of whom are the children of former Mexican American Studies educators — are asking that a March federal court ruling upholding the state law be reversed or remanded for further proceedings.

In their appeal, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue the law was designed to deprive Mexican-American students of the benefits of MAS, which they describe as a “highly effective curriculum that improved their graduation rates and other key educational outcomes.”

They go on to say that in implementing the statute, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal arbitrarily overrode the judgment of TUSD, national experts, and their own independent auditors, violating the First and 14th Amendments.

The law prohibits Arizona school districts and charter schools from including in their programs of instruction classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government; promote resentment toward a race or class of people; advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals; and are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

The federal court challenge was originally brought by 10 TUSD Mexican American Studies teachers and the director of the program, along with two TUSD students who said the law was overly broad, vague and violated their rights to free speech and equal protection.

U.S. Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima determined the statute does not proscribe the rights of students to speak freely in the classroom, but is directed at school curriculum.

The court acknowledged the statute restricts the students’ right to receive information by limiting the scope of curricular material, but determined that the restriction is not unconstitutional.

The only remaining plaintiffs from the original challenge are Maya Arce, daughter of Sean Arce, the former director of MAS; Korina Eliza Lopez, daughter of Lorenzo Lopez Jr., a former MAS teacher; and Nicolas Adrian Dominguez, a former MAS student and son of Margarita Elena Dominguez.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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