TUCSON, Ariz. — A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday in the case against a ban on ethnic studies in Arizona.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will hear arguments in the case that has received renewed attention after a school district in Tucson was accused by state officials of violating the ban.
A lower court has upheld the Arizona law that 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 ban was approved in 2010 and was adopted by the Tucson Unified School District two years later because it risked losing funding. The district eliminated its Mexican-American studies program, angering teachers and students who said it improved student achievement. They went on to sue the state, saying the law was overly broad and violated free speech rights.
But the federal court found courses only "designed primarily for peoples of a particular ethnic group" to be unconstitutionally vague and upheld the other standards under which Tucson's program was eliminated.
TUSD is now at risk of losing about $14.2 million in annual funding over what state officials say are violations of the ban.
Former Arizona Superintendent John Huppenthal used his last hours in office to issue a report accusing the TUSD of being in violation. He cited an introductory course on hip-hop from the African-American perspective and lyrics from the rock band Rage Against the Machine as violations.
New Superintendent Diane Douglas said she agrees that TUSD is in violation but says the problem is not with the ethnic studies curriculum but with the way it is taught.
Douglas said it's a misunderstanding that the Arizona Department of Education is opposed to ethnic studies.
District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said the curriculum follows a 2013 federal racial desegregation order requiring culturally relevant courses. He said the courses are being taught at three high schools, but they will be expanded to seven next school year.