Educators from TUSD's Mexican-American Studies department appeared in federal court Wednesday for the first hearing in their fight against a law that could change or eliminate the program and allow funding to be withheld for districts violating it.
The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Richard Martinez, include TUSD's Mexican-American Studies director, Sean Arce, and 10 teachers in that department who work at various schools.
The law, formerly known as HB 2281, prohibits courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government; promote resentment toward a race or class of people; are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group; and that advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.
The plaintiffs said they believe the law is the product of racial bias aimed specifically at Hispanics. Their lawsuit claims the law violates the plaintiffs' rights under the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, specifically citing equal protection, free speech and due process.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are the Arizona Board of Education and Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal. The board and the state superintendent were represented by the Attorney General's Office, which is now headed by Huppenthal's predecessor, Tom Horne.
Over the years, Horne has said publicly that the TUSD program promotes ethnic chauvinism. He declared the program in violation of the law during his final hours in office. The hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes, focused on setting a schedule for various deadlines.
An audit of the program, which was ordered by Huppenthal, was expected to wrap up Wednesday. A finding, however, is not expected until mid-May.
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4175.