Starting next school year, the Tucson Unified School District will once again have to include in its curriculum courses on Hispanic and African American culture as part of a court-approved plan to settle a four-decade-old lawsuit over segregation.

The classes will have to focus on the history, experience and culture in general of the Hispanic and African American communities, Federal Judge David Bury ruled on Wednesday.

The magistrate thus approved a plan that ends the dispute, which began with a lawsuit originally filed in 1974 by the NAACP and was subsequently joined by a group of Hispanics.

"Once fully implemented, today's order promises to dramatically improve educational opportunities for Latino students in Tucson," Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement.

"The plan addresses critical issues, such as the education of English learners, discriminatory disparities in access to critical programs, and the restoration of culturally relevant courses to the curriculum," he said.

Saenz said the judge's decision means that a curriculum designed to reflect the history, experience and culture of the Mexican American communities is a strategy to improve academic benefits for minority students.

TUSD, where about 60 percent of the student population is of Latino origin, eliminated its Mexican American studies programs last year after an Arizona judge ruled that they violated a new state law prohibiting courses that foment racial resentment.

As part of the decision to cancel the Mexican American studies classes, TUSD also removed from the institution more than a dozen titles related to Mexican American studies.

That decision sparked anger among students and professors and led to protests both in Arizona and elsewhere. EFE