Censorship, Arizona Style

arizona_protest

NCAC stands with dozens of national organizations that have joined together to protest the banning of books used for the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD).

This is censorship at its most brazen. Officials at the state and local level are responsible for this unacceptable restriction on the educational opportunities of students and their ability to have discussion in school about historical and contemporary events touching on race and ethnicity.
 
NCAC calls on them to restore the books and the topics for discussion in the district’s classrooms.
 
The TUSD board ordered the books removed after State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal threatened to withhold state funding pursuant to a recently-enacted Arizona law. That law is being challenged in court.
 
Chris Finan, President of American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and our partner in the Kids’ Right To Read Project (KRRP), has said “We do not think the students of Tucson should have to wait for a federal court order to get the education they deserve. Regardless of the outcome of legal proceedings, this is harming students, whose education should be the primary concern of elected officials. Instead they are putting politics and ideology ahead of the well-being of young people.”
 
NCAC and ABFFE continue to offer support, education, and advocacy through KRRP to promote the right of young people to read widely and receive a high quality education that is challenging and relevant. KRRP provides direct assistance to students, teachers, librarians and others opposing book-banning in schools and communities nationwide, while engaging local activists to promote the freedom to read.
 
In the shocking case of Tucson, many national organizations dedicated to education and constitutional rights have organized to speak in one voice, calling on the appropriate authorities to correct what they see as an egregious abuse of power.

Press and Blog Links:

Huffington Post: Teaching Tucson: More National Groups Demand Release of Detained Books, As Teachers Adopt Banned Mexican American Studies

Publishers Weekly: Censorship Battle Flares Up In Tucson School District

Tucson Citizen: National organizations issue joint statement in opposition to book censorship in TUSD

American Indians in Children’s Literature

JOINT STATEMENT IN OPPOSITION TO BOOK CENSORSHIP
IN THE TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
January 30, 2012

The undersigned organizations are committed to protecting free speech and intellectual freedom. We write to express our deep concern about the removal of books used in the Mexican-American Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District. This occurred in response to a determination by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal that the program “contained content promoting resentment toward a race or class of people” and that “materials repeatedly reference white people as being ‘oppressors….’ in violation of state law.” The books have been boxed up and put in storage; their fate and that of the program remain in limbo.

The First Amendment is grounded on the fundamental rule that government officials, including public school administrators, may not suppress “an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” School officials have a great deal of authority and discretion to determine the curriculum, the subject of courses, and even methods of instruction. They are restrained only by the constitutional obligation to base their decisions on sound educational grounds, and not on ideology or political or other personal beliefs. Thus, school officials are free to debate the merits of any educational program, but that debate does not justify the wholesale removal of books, especially when the avowed purpose is to suppress unwelcome information and viewpoints.

School officials have insisted that the books haven’t been banned because they are still available in school libraries. It is irrelevant that the books are available in the library – or at the local bookstore. School officials have removed materials from the curriculum, effectively banning them from certain classes, solely because of their content and the messages they contain. The effort to “prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, [or] religion” is the essence of censorship, whether the impact results in removal of all the books in a classroom, seven books, or only one.

Students deserve an education that provides exposure to a wide range of topics and perspectives, including those that are controversial. Their education has already suffered from this political and ideological donnybrook, which has caused massive disruption in their classes and will wreak more havoc as teachers struggle to fill the educational vacuum that has been created.

Book-banning and thought control are antithetical to American law, tradition and values. In Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous words, the First Amendment is founded on the belief:

that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile; … that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination …. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, the Framers eschewed silence coerced by law …. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.

The First Amendment right to read, speak and think freely applies to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, or national origin. We strongly urge Arizona school officials to take this commitment seriously and to return all books to classrooms and remove all restrictions on ideas that can be addressed in class.

American Association of University Professors
Cary Nelson, President
1133 19th St., NW, Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20036
202-737-5900
crnelson@illinois.edu
 
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
Chris Finan, President
19 Fulton Street, Suite 407
New York, NY 10038
212-587-4025
chris@abffe.org

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona
Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011-0148
602-773-6006
ameetze@acluaz.org

Antigone Books
Trudy Mills and Kate Randall, Owners
411 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705
520-792-3715
info@antigonebooks.com

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
Martha G. Abbott, Executive Director
1001 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 894-2900
mabbott@actfl.org

Arizona English Teachers’ Association
Jean Boreen, Executive Secretary
Northern Arizona University
English Department
P.O. Box 6032
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-6032
Jean.Boreen@nau.edu

Arizona Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
Craig Lefever, President
P.O. Box 881
Yuma, AZ 85366
Craig.lefever@yc.edu

Association of American Publishers
Judith Platt
Director, Free Expression Advocacy
455 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
202-220-4551
jplatt@publishers.org

Association of American University Presses
Peter Givler, Executive Director
28 West 36th Street, Suite 602
New York, NY 10018
212-989-1010
pgivler@aaupnet.org

Atalanta’s Music & Books
Joan Werner, Owner
38 Main Street
Bisbee, AZ 85603
520-432-9976

Authors Guild
Paul Aiken, Executive Director
31 East 32nd Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
212-563-5904
PAiken@authorsguild.org

Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking
Dr. Kathryn F. Whitmore, President
N275 Lindquist Center
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242
319-335-5434
Kathryn-whitmore@uiowa.edu

Changing Hands Bookstore
Gayle Shanks, Bob Sommer and Cindy Dach, Owners
6428 S McClintock Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283
480-730-0205
inbox@changinghands.com

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Charles Brownstein, Executive Director
255 West 36th Street, Suite 501
New York, NY 10018
212-679-7151
charles.brownstein@cbldf.org

Freedom to Read Foundation, an affiliate of the American Library Association
Barbara M. Jones, Executive Director
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
312-280-4226
bjones@ala.org

International Reading Association
Richard M. Long, Ed.D.,
Director, Government Relations
444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 524
Washington, DC 20001
202-624-8801
rlong@reading.org

Modern Language Association
Rosemary G. Feal, Executive Director
26 Broadway, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10004-1789
646-576-5102
RFeal@mla.org

Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association
Laura Ayrey, Executive Director
8020 Springshire Drive
Park City, UT 84098
435-649-6079
laura@mountainsplains.org

National Association for Bilingual Education
Dr. Santiago Wood, Ed.D.
Executive Director
8701 Georgia Avenue, Ste. 611
Silver Springs, MD 20910
240-450-3700
svwood@bellsouth.net

National Association for Ethnic Studies
Ron Scapp, Interim President
Department of Ethnic Studies
Colorado State University
1790 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO  80523-1790
970-491-3927
NAES@ethnicstudies.org

National Coalition Against Censorship
Joan Bertin, Executive Director
19 Fulton Street, Suite 407
New York, NY 10038
212-807-6242
bertin@ncac.org

National Council for the Social Studies
Susan Griffin, Executive Director
8555 16th St, Ste 500
Silver Spring, MD  20910
 301.588.1800 x 103
sgriffin@ncss.org

National Council of Teachers of English
Millie Davis
Senior Developer, Affiliated Groups and Public Outreach
1111 West Kenyan Road
Urbana, IL 61801
800-369-6283 ext. 3634
mdavis@ncte.org

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Kichoon Yang, Executive Director
1906 Association Dr.
Reston, VA 20191-1502
703-620-9840
kyang@nctm.org

National Education Association
Michael D. Simpson
Assistant General Counsel, NEA Office of General Counsel
1201 16th St., NW
Washington, DC  20036
202-822-7035
msimpson@nea.org

National Youth Rights Association
Alex Koroknay-Palicz, Executive Director
1101 15th Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
202-835-1739
akpalicz@youthrights.org

PEN American Center
Larry Siems, Director, Freedom to Write & International Programs
588 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
212-334-1660 ext. 105
lsiems@pen.org
 
PEN Center USA
Adam Somers, Executive Director
P.O. Box 6037
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
323-424-4939
adam@penusa.org

People For the American Way
Debbie Liu, General Counsel
1101 15th Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20005
202-467-4999
dliu@pfaw.org

Reach Out and Read
Anne-Marie Fitzgerald
Senior Director of National and State Programs
56 Roland Street, Suite 100D
Boston, MA 02129
618-455-0600

Reading is Fundamental, Inc.
Carol Hampton Rasco, President/CEO
1255 23rd Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20037
202-536-3500

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Lin Oliver, Executive Director
8271 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323-782-1010
linoliver@scbwi.org
 
Spark Teacher Education Institute
Educational Praxis, Inc.
P.O. Box 409
Putney, Vermont 05346
802-258-9212

Student Press Law Center
Frank LoMonte, Executive Director
1101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1100
Arlington, VA 22209-2275 USA
703-807-1904
flomonte@splc.org

TESOL International Association
John Segota, CAE
Associate Executive Director for Public Policy & Professional Relations
1925 Ballenger Ave., Suite 550
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-518-2513
jsegota@tesol.org

List in formation


Arizona HB 2281 (click for .PDF of the bill) bans schools from teaching classes that are designed for students of a particular ethnic group, promote resentment or advocate ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals. The bill also bans classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government. School districts that don’t comply with the new law could have as much as 10% of their state funds withheld each month.

For additional information, Debbie Reese at the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog has a compendium of reference links, updates, statements and video from those affected by the ongoing censorship in Arizona.

The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom has passed a resolution "opposing restriction of access to materials and open inquiry in ethnic and cultural studies programs in Arizona", which you can read on their blog