TUCSON - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed a district court decision that terminated court jurisdiction over school desegregation policies in Tucson. In Fisher/Mendoza v. Tucson Unified School District, MALDEF, along with co-counsel from law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, served as attorneys for the Mendoza plaintiffs.
In its ruling, the appellate court panel cited the district court’s finding that the school district did not demonstrate good faith in how it currently provided equal opportunity to its minority students. The appellate court’s decision mandates continued court supervision for the district in its application of desegregation policies until the district can “demonstrate[e]—not merely promis[e]—its ‘good-faith compliance . . . with the [Settlement Agreement] over a reasonable period of time,’” and remands the case to the district court for further proceedings in light of the opinion.
Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, issued the following statement in response to yesterday’s decision: "The appellate court's well-reasoned decision restores federal court supervision over the Tucson district, providing much-needed protections for Latino and other minority students in a state that has too often demonstrated hostility toward these students who are the state's greatest hope for a stronger and better future."
Lois Thompson, partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and co-counsel on the case, stated: “Given the district court’s findings that the school district had not acted in good faith to show its commitment to a desegregated school system, we are gratified that the court of appeals panel has unanimously ruled that the school district must remain under court supervision until it has demonstrated good faith compliance over a reasonable period of time and eliminated the vestiges of its past discrimination.”
The decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is a step toward correcting the discrimination Tucson minority communities have faced and provides the students and parents with a means of accountability for the district's provision of a fair and equitable education. The Tucson Unified School District is a majority-minority school district with a significant Latino student population. This is a major victory for the minority communities of Tucson.