TUCSON, AZ – A local federal district court this week denied a petition by the Tucson Unified School District that would have had an adverse effect on ongoing efforts to reduce segregation in the district. On behalf of Latino parents and students in Tucson public schools, MALDEF challenged the TUSD petition to open a new middle school on the David Monthan Air Force Base (DMAFB) because the action would have been completely inconsistent with the 1978 Stipulation of Settlement which requires the district to desegregate its schools. Moreover, the court found that the creation of a new middle school on the DMAFB was not in the best interests of the community because it would remove DMAFB parents from the community served by Naylor Middle School, parents whose strong voices could be heard to advocate for the improvement of Naylor Middle School if their children were required to attend that middle school.

“The holding affirms MALDEF’s argument that the core of the underlying case centers on the principle that separate schools will not provide equal educational opportunities, and that the creation of a majority Anglo school which would also have resulted in a racially identifiable Hispanic school, flies in the face of the Stipulation of Settlement.” Rarely in the 29 year history of the Stipulation of Settlement has the Court spoken so clearly that TUSD has failed in its obligation to serve all children. “In 1993, the court similarly rejected TUSD’s plan to close Catalina High School, the District’s most integrated high school, a plan that would have also set back desegregation efforts,” stated Cynthia Valenzuela, MALDEF Director of Litigation.

In the mid-1970s, MALDEF and the NAACP filed two separate segregation cases against the TUSD on behalf of Latino and African American students. In 1978, the U.S. District Court ordered the TUSD to sign a Stipulation of Settlement that required the district to obtain court approval before making certain changes to the district and ordered the TUSD to refrain from engaging in any future discriminatory or segregative acts.

MALDEF opposed the creation of a new school on the DMAFB because it would have created two racially identifiable schools: Naylor Middle School, the Latino school, and Lowell Middle School, the majority Anglo school. Naylor Middle School has been designated as failing and underachieving by NCLB and AZLearns. The Court, like MALDEF, questioned the motive of the district for wanting to carve out a majority Anglo school while allowing a nearby majority Hispanic school to fail to educate its student body.

“This is a victory for all of the children in the Tucson Unified School District. All children deserve the best education that the district can provide,” concluded Valenzuela.

“TUSD could not convince the court that a new school was necessary. The Court didn’t buy TUSD’s argument that DMAFB students needed a school that was closer to the base because the assigned feeder school, Naylor Middle School, is only 3.5 miles away, and 62% of DMAFB students have been voluntarily selecting schools further away from the base than Naylor,” Valenzuela added. The Court also acknowledged that MALDEF, the Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC), and Arizona Department of Education have each offered feasible alternatives to enhance educational opportunities for all the students in the district. The inclusion of DMAFB parents in these efforts could further benefit Naylor Middle School and the school community.