MALDEF

Mendoza v. Tucson Unified School District

MALDEF filed this desegregation case on behalf of Latino parents and students in 1974. In 1978, after the trial court found that effects of past intentional segregation remained in the District, the parties settled the case through a Stipulation of Settlement which required the District to eliminate the vestiges of past discrimination. The district was to do so by employing specific remedies, including the reassignment of students through voluntary and mandatory busing, and the closing of segregated schools. The Court retained jurisdiction to monitor compliance with the Stipulation.

Although the Stipulation contemplated compliance and final resolution within five years, thirty years later the district has failed to fully comply with the letter and the spirit of the Stipulation. In 2005, the district filed a Petition for Unitary Status and Termination of Court Oversight. In 2006, after a thorough review of the district’s desegregation efforts, MALDEF opposed the district’s Petition, and continues to defend the Stipulation.

While the Petition for Unitary Status was pending, in March 2007, the District filed a Petition seeking court approval to open a middle school on the Davis Monthan Air Force Base. MALDEF successfully objected to the Petition because of the potential adverse impact on minority students and schools in the surrounding neighborhood. In May 2007, the Court denied the District’s Petition to open the proposed middle school. In June 2007, MALDEF filed an expert report demonstrating the District’s failure to follow its own racial/ethnic transfer policy. The intent of the policy was to improve the racial diversity of its schools, but the District’s violation of its own policy promoted segregation and racial isolation.

In August, 2007, the Court issued an Interim Order applying the Supreme Court’s decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District (PICS), which limited the ability of school districts to take account of race to promote diversity and address racial isolation. Based on that decision, the Court in the Mendoza case declared the district’s racial/ethnic transfer policy unconstitutional. In September 2007, MALDEF filed a Request for Reconsideration. MALDEF argued that the PICS decision is not applicable to a school district, like Tucson, that is under a continuing desegregation obligation. The Court denied MALDEF’s request to reconsider that particular ruling.

In October 2007, the District filed its Post-Unitary Plan. MALDEF filed its reply to the plan in November 2007. In April 2008, the Court conditionally granted the Petition for Unitary Status pending final approval of a Joint Post-Unitary Plan. Presently, the parties are engaged in developing the Joint Plan.

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund