Stage set for ruling in Mexican-American studies trial

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A judge plans to rule within weeks on a challenge to an Arizona law that prompted the dismantling of a Mexican-American history program in Tucson's largest school district.

U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima heard closing arguments Friday in the case in which plaintiffs contend the law was too broad and infringed on their First Amendment rights.

The courts have upheld most of the law but are determining whether it was enacted with an intent to be discriminatory, which the state denies.

The law prohibits courses that promote resentment toward a race or a class of people, are designed primarily for people of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead treating people as individuals.

Tucson Unified School District dismantled the program in 2012 to avoid losing state funding.

Tom Horne, former state attorney general and former leader of Arizona's public schools, testified last week that he was troubled by what he described as radical instructors teaching students to be disruptive. But he insisted he targeted all ethnic studies programs equally.

Lawmakers dismantled the programs in a measure that passed in 2010, the same year Arizona approved its landmark immigration law known as SB1070.

Students in the Tucson Unified School District, which offered the Mexican-American course, launched protests and then sued.

Horne drafted the law as superintendent of public schools and later defended it as state attorney general.

The Tucson program began in 1998 and focused on Mexican-American history, literature and art in an effort to keep Mexican-American students in school and engaged. Advocates say students who participated outperformed their peers in grades and standardized tests.

The board of the Tucson school district officially dismantled the program in January 2012, a month after the law took effect.

Attorneys for the state have denied that racial discrimination played a part in the law.

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