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TUSD: Huppenthal’s assessment weak

Supporters of the Tucson ethnic studies program in the Tuscan Unified School District protest Monday, May 9, 2011 outside the Arizona Department of Education in Phoenix. About a dozen people showed up Monday and held signs accusing the department of a policy of attacking Arizona Latinos after former school's chief Tom Horne declared the program a violation of state law and called for its elimination hours before his term ended and he became Arizona Attorney General. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Supporters of the Tucson ethnic studies program in the Tuscan Unified School District protest Monday, May 9, 2011 outside the Arizona Department of Education in Phoenix. About a dozen people showed up Monday and held signs accusing the department of a policy of attacking Arizona Latinos after former school's chief Tom Horne declared the program a violation of state law and called for its elimination hours before his term ended and he became Arizona Attorney General. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Tucson Unified School District fired back Wednesday at state schools chief John Huppenthal, saying in an appeal that his findings that the district’s Mexican American Studies program is unlawful are thin.

Heather Gaines, an attorney representing the district, wrote in a seven-page appeal that Huppenthal’s reliance on cherry-picked excerpts from textbooks found in the program’s classrooms makes it impossible for the district to fix any alleged violations.

“The notice of violation fails to identify the name or location of even a single course that allegedly violates (state law),” Gaines wrote.

Huppenthal didn’t provide any analysis on whether the texts were actually taught or which classes they were used, Gaines argued in the filing.

On June 15, Huppenthal found that the district did not comply with the law, also known as HB2281.

It prohibits classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promotes resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

Huppenthal found that the district violated the latter three provisions.

The district has 60 days to comply or risk losing 10 percent of its monthly apportionment of state aid, which could add up to $15 million over a year.

Huppenthal’s spokesman, Andrew LeFevre, said he hadn’t seen the appeal yet, but they were eager to begin the appeals process, which will take place in the Office of Administrative Hearings.

The state schools superintendent made his ruling despite findings by a team of auditors he hired who found that the program did not violate the law.

Gaines makes that an issue in the appeal, saying, “The findings of the audit are quite extensive and provide valuable evidence in evaluating TUSD’s compliance with (the law).”

Gaines also alleged that Huppenthal’s notice of violation didn’t conform to the law and left off specific details of how the district was in violation.

She also argued that the law is too vague to follow and Huppenthal went beyond the scope of the law by also finding that the district was in violation of other state laws pertaining to the governing board’s oversight of curriculum.

Huppenthal will now have to file the appeal with the Office of Administrative Hearings, which will set a hearing within 60 days.

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