9OYS Education Watch
A book ban or not?
Debate over TUSD pulling books involves semantics, new online petition
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Critics call it a "book ban." The Tucson Unified School District has repeatedly said it's no such thing
. Now, those critics are grouping, demanding change and continuing to call it as they see it.
After the TUSD board voted to end the Mexican-American Studies program, district staff acted quickly, removing seven book titles from classrooms
and sending them to storage. The textbooks were part of the program.
“We were under a timeline to be able to do this,” said district communications director Cara Rene. “That is showing good faith that we are complying with the law. That's the decision that our governing board made--was to comply with the law.”
Protesters cried “book ban.”
“The reality is: there is no book ban,” Rene said. “That is misinformation. Again, the books were taken out of the classroom because those classes have been suspended. The books at issue have been talked about widely--that were used in the Mexican-American studies classes--are still available in the libraries and students can still have access to them.”
Critics don't buy it. District board member Adelita Grijalva, the only one to not vote to end the program, said the restricted access of books constitutes a ban.
In a statement to KGUN9 News, Grijalva cited an American Library Association definition
and wrote: "The fact is that the ONLY high school in our district that has every book that TUSD has removed from classrooms is Tucson High. Pueblo and Cholla High Schools have one copy of one of the books respectfully."
Now former Mexican-American studies teacher Norma Gonzalez shares the sentiment and semantics.
Reporter Kevin Keen asked, “How is it a book ban, from your perspective?” “It's the double talk from the district: to say that the books are available but then to have one or two copies available--it's not availability,” Gonzalez replied. “That, in effect, is a book ban. If there is no book ban, then why are the books in the depository? Why not just get them all out and make them available for students and teachers?”
Gonzalez is calling on the district to do just that. With nearly 13,500 backers, she's authored an online petition
demanding the district send copies to school libraries. Signatures have come from across the country through Change.org.
“While this fight is local to Tucson, I think it touches on something bigger that people are feeling right now,” said Rachel LaBruyere, senior organizer at Change.org.
While the district says there's another way, that way is already being questioned.
“If the libraries are requesting additional copies or if it's a library that doesn't have a particular copy, they can request those and, yes, those will be brought over,” Rene said.
“Why are they books that should have to be requested when they're books that are already highly used?” Gonzalez said.
Once 15,000 signatures are gathered, the plan is to present the petition to the district governing board.