Petitions filed over Mexican American Studies Books

Activists say their internet petition has collected more than 15,000 signatures from around the country

Petitions filed over Mexican American Studies Books

CREATED Feb 9, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Another skirmish in the battle over TUSD Mexican American studies. 
The school board dismantled the program to avoid millions of dollars in fines from the state. 
Now there's a new demand--and a thick petition- to give schools back the books that used to be used in the courses.
Supporters called it a book ban.  The district says the books were already available.

Teacher Norma Gonzalez delivered what she says is more than 15 thousand signatures to the TUSD board.

The signatures from all over the country, urge the TUSD board to make available the seven books used as textbooks for Mexican American Studies before TUSD shut down the program.
They are books like Occupied America, or Chicano.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Gonzalez: "How would you anticipate them being used? By teachers in organized sessions or by students independently?"

Gonzalez replied: "Across the board.  These are books that were heavily used by teachers, students, parents because that's the type of curriculum that was available through Mexican American Studies is for students and teacher and parents and communities."
Raul Aguirre , who chairs the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board says even without the program the books still have value.

Craig Smith asked Aguirre:"What sort of line do the teachers have to walk in terms of perhaps saying, hey these books are available but then they've got some restrictions on what they can teach?"

Aguirre says, "Yeah, they can't teach anything that has to do with race, with oppression, with culture, in general and then in particular on Mexican American topics."
KGUN9 found all of the books are already available through the TUSD library system. The district says eleven schools requested additional copies of some or all of them.
School board president Dr. Mark Stegeman says it's appropriate for principals to request the books on a school by school basis.

Craig Smith asked him:"Are you concerned this could encourage basically a back door revival of the studies program?"

Dr. Stegeman:"Well the First Amendment is all about letting people be exposed to different ideas.  I don't think we want to be censoring books out of our libraries.  So, no, I think people on their own time are entitled, outside of the classroom are entitled to study whatever they want and come to whatever conclusions they want."

Doctor Stegeman compares the petitions to the many e-mails board members have received on the Mexican American Studies issue but he says the books are available to any school.  Because of the prospect of fines from the state they are simply not part of an approved curriculum.

Fellow board member Michael Hicks says he sees no problem in encouraging students to read the books on their own time but says teachers using the books in lessons could bring penalties from the Arizona Department of Education.