- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - A legal battle in an Arizona school district resumed in court seven years after a state law led to the demise of the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District.

The issue, which returned to court Monday, is whether state officials had discriminatory intent in enacting and enforcing the 2010 law that forbids programs that promote the overthrow of the federal government and resentment toward a race or class of people, or that advocate for ethnic solidarity and are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

A group of district educators and students argued the law violated their constitutional rights.

The Arizona Department of Education found the program to have violated the law and the program was shut down. Books were removed from classrooms in early 2011.

In opening statements at the trial, plaintiffs’ attorneys criticized Tom Horne, a former state schools chief who was later elected state attorney general in 2010, and John Huppenthal, a former state senator who was instrumental in crafting the law and succeeded Horne as superintendent.

They were accused of using the issue for political gain and wrongfully targeting a successful cultural program that boosted Latino students’ achievement, the Arizona Daily Star reported (https://bit.ly/2tgO2Iw ).

“It is essentially undisputed that Mexican American Studies was specifically targeted by the state of Arizona for elimination,” said Jim Quinn, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Rob Ellman, the defendants’ attorney, said the program taught students to hate white people.

Ellman said the defense would bring forward colleagues of Horne and Huppenthal to testify that both men are not racist.

The first portion of the trial continues until Friday, and a second week of trial is scheduled to take place in mid-July.

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