A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered a trial to assess whether an Arizona law that was passed to ban a Mexican-American studies curriculum in Tucson’s public schools intentionally discriminates against Hispanics.
The 2-1 ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s ethnic studies law, rejecting arguments brought by plaintiffs that the statute is overly broad and vague. However, the ruling kicked the case back to the Arizona district court in Tucson, saying enough evidence exists to require a trial to show whether the law was “motivated at least in part by a discriminatory intent.”
If there were evidence of discriminatory intent in the law’s design or implementation, the measure would be unconstitutional, the ruling says.
“It’s an important decision,” Richard Martinez, one of the lawyers who brought the lawsuit against Arizona officials, told The Huffington Post. “Probably the most important part of this decision is that the state of Arizona will now have to face discovery in a trial to be held accountable for the creation and enactment of this law.”
The decision is a blow for the Arizona conservatives who championed the law in order to eliminate a pioneering Mexican-American studies program in Tucson public schools. The curriculum is credited with boosting the graduation rate and improving student achievement on state tests in the majority-Latino district.
Arizona Republicans, led by then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and then-State Sen. John Huppenthal, first passed legislation restricting ethnic studies in 2010. The law banned classes that advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government, urge ethnic solidarity, breed ethnic resentment or treat students as members of a group rather than as individuals.
In 2011, Huppenthal took over from Horne as the superintendent of public instruction and found Tucson out of compliance with the law, dismissing a……
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