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TUCSON, Ariz. -- A federal court on Wednesday approved a consent decree to resolve a decades-long battle to end racial disparity in the Tucson Unified School District.

U.S. District Court Judge David Bury in Tucson approved the decree filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, together with private plaintiffs and Pima County's largest school district.

Bury, who is overseeing the district's desegregation effort, approved the Unitary Status Plan and ordered TUSD to begin offering culturally relevant courses next school year.

The desegregation case originally was filed in 1974 with federal authorities intervening two years later.

Class-action lawsuits were filed against the district in 1978 on behalf of black students and Mexican-American students and employees.

Last year, a federal court in Tucson asked the parties to develop a plan to desegregate the district.

After extensive negotiations, the parties jointly submitted the four-year plan requiring the district to provide a high quality educational environment for all students.

The classes, which will focus on the history, experiences and culture of black and Latino communities, are one of many provisions in a plan that aims to bring racial balance to TUSD schools.

The plan focuses on eliminating vestiges of past discrimination to the extent practicable in the areas of discipline, student assignment, school operations- which includes faculty, staff, transportation, extracurricular activities and facilities- and the quality of education being offered to minority students.

The plan was put together by Special Master Willis Hawley, an expert on race relations and academic achievement.

Associated Press,

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