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A federal appeals court on Tuesday kept alive a legal challenge brought by former students who sued Arizona over a ban on ethnic studies in public schools and who will have a new chance to argue the law discriminates against Mexican Americans.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld most of a lower court's decision. But it sent the case back to a federal court in Tucson, where a judge will decide whether the ban was enacted with discriminatory intent in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Attorneys for the students claimed victory based on the part of the ruling that provides them new opportunity to go before a judge and make their case on a key provision of their argument. A spokesman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office said the agency was still reviewing the ruling and did not have immediate comment.

The law was passed by the Arizona Legislature in the same session that lawmakers enacted the landmark immigration legislation known as SB1070. It shuttered the Tucson Unified School District's popular Mexican-American studies program, sparking protests from students who they benefited from the courses. The majority of students in the district are Hispanic. The program taught them about historic events relating to the Mexican-American experience such as their indigenous roots and the Mexican Revolution.


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