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Federal Judge Considers Arguments in Arizona Ethnic Studies Case

A federal judge agreed to consider arguments in a case that will determine the future of Ethnic Studies programs in Arizona. Using a new law, state school officials are trying to ban Mexican-American studies as they’re now taught.

The plaintiffs in the case are 11 teachers and two students who are challenging the constitutionality of that law. They’ve argued it's aimed directly at a program in the Tucson Unified School District.

Richard Martinez is their lawyer; he filed for an injunction last November.

"Basically, we believe that each of the plaintiffs has standing, that they’re proper parties before the court," Martinez said. "That they’ve each suffered constitutional harms under the various theories that we listed, either from due process to equal protection to the First Amendment.”

The law prohibits teaching divisive courses that advocate for the overthrow of the US government or those designed primarily for people of a particular race.

Assistant Attorney General Kevin Ray spoke on behalf of the defendant, in this case, the superintendent of Arizona schools. He asked the judge to dismiss the plaintiff's request to block the law.

"The state does not believe that the teachers nor the prospective students have the constitutional right to be taught the current Mexican American studies program,” he said.

In a separate case, the school district was ruled out of compliance with the law last summer and appealed. The decision on the appeal in state court will come within the next month. The school district stands to lose $15 millions in state aid if the judge rules against it.