The TUSD Governing Board has decided not to challenge the constitutionality of a new ethnic-studies law despite the threat of being named as a defendant in a lawsuit.

The warning comes from 11 Mexican American Studies educators who work for Tucson Unified School District but have filed their own lawsuit and appealed to the board on Tuesday to do the same.

The current defendants in the lawsuit are the Arizona superintendent of public instruction and the Arizona State Board of Education.

Former Arizona schools chief Tom Horne declared TUSD's Mexican-American Studies program in violation of the law, saying the courses are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group.

TUSD contends it is in compliance and plans to appeal.

If the district is named a defendant in the suit, it is not clear the type of impact it will have. What is clear, however, is that the employee/employer relationship between the teachers and the district would not change.

"This will not impact the duties or responsibilities teachers have on campus or we have as an administration," Superintendent John Pedicone said. "The only thing that would be restricted is conversations dealing with the litigation they're engaged in.

"I consider the appeal to be the correct avenue for the district's sake, so we will proceed with that hearing and move forward with that process. I believe we will prevail."

Governing Board President Mark Stegeman agrees with Pedicone.

"Speaking as only one board member, I prefer to pursue the administrative-hearing option established by the law, at least in the short run," Stegeman said. "I cannot predict what actions the board as a whole may take as the situation continues to evolve."

The Governing Board recently passed a resolution stating that TUSD's ethnic-studies departments will be in compliance with the law. That resolution, according to the plaintiffs of the lawsuit, essentially embraces the law as if it is legitimate and enforceable.

They said the best way to protect the school district is to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

"I opposed HB 2281, but it is now the law of Arizona, and it is the board's duty and sworn responsibility to uphold the law," Stegeman said. "The law incorporates a procedure to appeal the state superintendent's ruling, but TUSD cannot simply ignore the law." 

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Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175.