Court upholds Arizona law against ethnic program

A federal court has upheld the constitutionality of Arizona's law that prohibits public schools from offering courses that teach ethnic solidarity.

A ruling issued Friday in Tucson's U.S. District Court found Arizona's law to be constitutional with one minor exception, and denied a second motion for a preliminary injunction in the case.

The Tucson-based Save Ethnics Studies group said Monday that the case "is not over" and they are deciding whether to file an appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The Tucson Unified School District voted in April 2012 to dismantle its Mexican-American Studies program after some state funding was to be cut off in response to conclusions by Arizona's public schools chief and a judge that the program violated the law.

State officials ruled that the courses' content violated a law against curriculum that engendered racial or ethnic disharmony.

An independent administrative law judge found the program presented material in a "biased, political and emotionally charged manner" and teaching in such a manner "promotes racial resentment."

Several students and teachers in Tucson's largest school district challenged the statute on several grounds, including violation of free speech.

Arizona's law prohibits courses if they promote resentment toward a race or a class of people, are designed primarily for peoples of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of peoples as individuals.

The court found only "designed primarily for peoples of a particular ethnic group" to be unconstitutionally vague and upheld the other standards under which Tucson's Mexican-American Studies program was eliminated.

The case was argued by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.

"This is a victory for ensuring that public education is not held captive to radical, political elements and that students treat each other as individuals -- not on the basis of the race they were born into," Horne said in a statement Monday.

Horne found that TUSD was in violation of the statute in late December 2010 when he was Arizona's superintendent of public schools.

His successor, John Huppenthal, issued a second finding in June 2011 that TUSD was in "clear violation" because the ethnic studies program was primarily designed for Latino students.

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