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Tucson school board votes to do away with Mexican American studies program

The school district in Tucson voted Tuesday to dismantle its Mexican American Studies program that had left critics wondering what exactly the course taught participating students.

“There was no clear curriculum and it currently serves less than 1 percent of Tucson students,” Andrew Le Fevre, a spokesman for superintendent of public instruction, said. He said the classes were poorly supervised and students would get extra credit for things like attending protests and bringing family members along.

The Tucson Unified School District board voted to scrap the program after more than $1 million of monthly state funding was to be cut off in response to conclusions by Arizona's public schools chief and a judge that the program violated the law.

Miguel Cuevas, a member of the board, was reportedly called a sellout at a meeting when he joined three other board members in the vote to do away with the program.

“I couldn’t justify seeing $15 million cut from all our students just so less than 1 percent can take the class,” he told FoxNews.com. “And there was no evidence that the classes had any curriculum.”

He was also warned “not to come to the west side.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal last week ordered that 10 percent of the district's monthly state aid, amounting to more than $1 million per month, be withheld until the district follows the law.

A large part of what was being introduced was how Caucasians held them back and how they've been oppressed, LaFevre said. Students also were taught about how Mexico's land was taken from them by Americans. 

"It's OK to teach about oppression," LaFevre said. "But how about talking about the oppression of Irish-Americans or African-Americans." 

Huppenthal concluded during the summer that the program violated the law. The district appealed Huppenthal's earlier findings, and an administrative law judge in December upheld the decision by the schools chief.

The judge ruled that the program violated state law by having one or more classes designed primarily for one ethnic group, promoting racial resentment and advocating ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.

All board members supported revamping either the program or some classes so they are more comprehensive and include the contributions of all ethnicities.

Board member Adelita Grijalva, the dissenting vote, called for the district to continue to defend the program in court and to challenge the law's constitutionality.

"This is an issue that is not going to go away by this vote. When bad laws are written, they are usually picked up by other states. This is an opportunity to fight a bad law," she said.

John Pedicone, the district's superintendent, said students will be transferred to existing traditional courses without jeopardizing class credits.

While the board voted to accept Huppenthal's finding and dismantle the program, the district has long held that it is not in violation of the law.

A group of Mexican American Studies educators and students who independently challenged the law suffered a blow in federal court.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied their request for an order to stop Huppenthal from taking further action against the district until their lawsuit is settled.

Judge A. Wallace Tashima also ruled their case may continue, but dismissed claims filed by the teachers, saying they had no standing in the case because they could not prove that they would suffer irreparable harm.

But the judge will hear claims from at least one student identified as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The student has registered to take Mexican American Studies courses and will not be able to do so now that the courses have been eliminated.

FoxNews.com's Edmund DeMarche and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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