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

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
[email protected]
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
Chris Finan, President
19 Fulton Street, Suite 407
New York, NY 10038
[email protected]

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona
Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011-0148
[email protected]

Antigone Books
Trudy Mills and Kate Randall, Owners
411 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705
[email protected]

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
[email protected]

Arizona English Teachers’ Association
Jean Boreen, Executive Secretary
Northern Arizona University
English Department
P.O. Box 6032
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-6032
[email protected]

Arizona Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
Craig Lefever, President
P.O. Box 881
Yuma, AZ 85366
[email protected]

Association of American Publishers
Judith Platt
Director, Free Expression Advocacy
455 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
[email protected]

Association of American University Presses
Peter Givler, Executive Director
28 West 36th Street, Suite 602
New York, NY 10018
[email protected]

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

Authors Guild
Paul Aiken, Executive Director
31 East 32nd Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
[email protected]

Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking
Dr. Kathryn F. Whitmore, President
N275 Lindquist Center
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242
[email protected]

Changing Hands Bookstore
Gayle Shanks, Bob Sommer and Cindy Dach, Owners
6428 S McClintock Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283
[email protected]

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Charles Brownstein, Executive Director
255 West 36th Street, Suite 501
New York, NY 10018
[email protected]

Freedom to Read Foundation, an affiliate of the American Library Association
Barbara M. Jones, Executive Director
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
[email protected]

International Reading Association
Richard M. Long, Ed.D.,
Director, Government Relations
444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 524
Washington, DC 20001
[email protected]

Modern Language Association
Rosemary G. Feal, Executive Director
26 Broadway, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10004-1789
[email protected]

Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association
Laura Ayrey, Executive Director
8020 Springshire Drive
Park City, UT 84098
[email protected]

National Association for Bilingual Education
Dr. Santiago Wood, Ed.D.
Executive Director
8701 Georgia Avenue, Ste. 611
Silver Springs, MD 20910
[email protected]

National Association for Ethnic Studies
Ron Scapp, Interim President
Department of Ethnic Studies
Colorado State University
1790 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO  80523-1790
[email protected]

National Coalition Against Censorship
Joan Bertin, Executive Director
19 Fulton Street, Suite 407
New York, NY 10038
[email protected]

National Council for the Social Studies
Susan Griffin, Executive Director
8555 16th St, Ste 500
Silver Spring, MD  20910
 301.588.1800 x 103
[email protected]

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
[email protected]

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Kichoon Yang, Executive Director
1906 Association Dr.
Reston, VA 20191-1502
[email protected]

National Education Association
Michael D. Simpson
Assistant General Counsel, NEA Office of General Counsel
1201 16th St., NW
Washington, DC  20036
[email protected]

National Youth Rights Association
Alex Koroknay-Palicz, Executive Director
1101 15th Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
[email protected]

PEN American Center
Larry Siems, Director, Freedom to Write & International Programs
588 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
212-334-1660 ext. 105
[email protected]
PEN Center USA
Adam Somers, Executive Director
P.O. Box 6037
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
[email protected]

People For the American Way
Debbie Liu, General Counsel
1101 15th Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20005
[email protected]

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

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

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Lin Oliver, Executive Director
8271 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
[email protected]
Spark Teacher Education Institute
Educational Praxis, Inc.
P.O. Box 409
Putney, Vermont 05346

Student Press Law Center
Frank LoMonte, Executive Director
1101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1100
Arlington, VA 22209-2275 USA
[email protected]

TESOL International Association
John Segota, CAE
Associate Executive Director for Public Policy & Professional Relations
1925 Ballenger Ave., Suite 550
Alexandria, VA 22314
[email protected]

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