Tucson, AZ – A request by the Tucson Unified School District to be released in part from court supervision of its desegregation plan is premature and should be rejected, attorneys for Latino students argued in an opposition brief submitted to a federal court today.
In a motion filed in March, Tucson Unified argued to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona that it has sufficiently eliminated segregation in transportation, extracurricular activities, family and community engagement, facilities, technology and accountability systems to be released from court supervision of those areas.
In the opposition brief, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP told the court that the school district cannot separate out those areas because they are inexorably intertwined with other provisions of the desegregation decree that remain under court supervision. Those provisions require Tucson Unified to address racial and ethnic disparities in discipline, quality of education, and how and where students are assigned to schools.
“Unfortunately, the district has not demonstrated any consistent commitment to equal educational opportunity as to warrant release from supervision,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “On this record, maintaining supervision is particularly important because, while the federal Department of Justice has played a key role in oversight in this case, the current federal Department of Education seems intent on reducing its role in ensuring equal educational opportunity in districts across the nation.”
MALDEF has represented plaintiffs in the desegregation case since it was first filed in 1974. Today’s brief is the most recent challenge to decades of fights over a court-ordered desegregation decree known as the Unitary Status Plan (USP). The school district, the brief says, has failed to comply with mandates set forth by the Ninth Circuit of Appeals in 2011, when it ruled that Tucson Unified was to remain under court supervision.
Federal courts, backed by the Ninth Circuit decision, have ruled that the district must show a good-faith commitment to carry out all of the desegregation remedies required by the USP before it can be released from court supervision. “It is unfortunate that the district spent its time and resources seeking to prematurely end court supervision when those resources could instead have been spent furthering the USP goals of achieving greater integration and closing achievement gaps,” said MALDEF staff attorney Juan Rodriguez.
The opposition brief notes that the plaintiffs “have been encouraged by recent changes in District governance and administration,” it contends that Tucson Unified is not in full and satisfactory compliance with the areas of the USP for which it wants to end Court supervision, nor has it shown a good-faith commitment to the entire desegregation effort.
“Although TUSD has not yet earned the right to be released from judicial oversight, we hope that under new leadership it will demonstrate the commitment to the USP and to the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights that will permit the court to withdraw its supervision,” said Lois Thompson, a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and co-counsel with MALDEF in the case.
Read the brief here