The guide, issued in 1999 following legislation from State Sen. Steven Tolman, does not forbid teachers from discussing other points of view. After a list of “contra-genocide” sources were later listed on the guide, however, Tolman successfully lobbied for their removal and has followed the resulting court case closely.
“When we put together the genocide curriculum, it was based on facts,” Tolman said after the ruling. “When this youngster and the Turkish Association were doing this we knew it was the same denial game. I’m excited that the system works. Justice prevails, it makes sense. The Turks have denied [the Genocide] forever and they have no merit.”
The motion to dismiss, filed by the Board of Education, argued that the three-year statute of limitations for the case had run out. Wolf disagreed, but said based on the arguments provided the ATAA would have to “resume their efforts to prevail in the political arena because they are not entitled to relief in federal court.”
The dismissal came as a relief to the Armenian-American community and other groups that filed amicus briefs to the judge, including the Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian Bar Association, Armenian National Committee, International Association of Genocide Scholars, Irish Immigration Center, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The briefs were filed by law firms Wilmer Hale, Holland & Knight, K&L Gates and Erwin Chemerinsky of the Duke University School of Law.
Van Krikorian, one of the attorneys who filed the Assembly’s brief, said he was relieved by the ruling because it will help stem the likelihood of similar challenges being lodged elsewhere.
“This was such a blow to [the ATAA’s] plan, which was to get a favorable ruling here and then repeat the tactic in every school district across the country,” Krikorian said. “The result of the decision is it cuts them off, it destroys that plan.”
Despite the nearly three years spent waiting for Wolf’s ruling on Department of Education’s motion to dismiss, which left both sides wondering what the delay was caused by, lead attorney for the ATAA Harvey Silverglate said an appeal may be filed as early as next week.
Silverglate, a well-known First Amendment lawyer, maintains that the curriculum guide constitutes a “21st-century library” rather than a traditional curriculum since it is a listing of websites. According to Wolf’s argument, a library is subject to first amendment rights “government speech” does not afford curriculums.
Wolf’s opinion rejected Silverglate’s argument, stating that nothing restricted teachers from addressing “contra-genocide” sources.
“The Curriculum Guide requires neither students nor teachers to engage in any speech,” he stated. “Rather, local school boards can choose whether to adopt the Curriculum Guide. The complaint does not suggest that any of the plaintiff teachers have been compelled to instruct only in accordance with it.”
“Failing to include the websites among materials which may be presented to students is not tantamount to restricting access to them,” Wolf added.
The decision to dismiss the case, Silverglate said, is “absolutely and clearly wrong. I’m quite confident that this lawsuit will go forward.”
Attorney David Guberman, who represented the Department of Education, would not comment for this story.