After nearly two years of being banned from classrooms, the school board for the Tucson Unified School District voted to allow seven Mexican American Studies books back into classrooms as supplemental materials. The move received an immediate negative response from the Arizona Department of Education.
Alexis Huicochea with the Arizona Daily Star shared a statement released by the department:
“Given the prior misuse of the approved texts in TUSD classrooms, the Arizona Department of Education is concerned whether the Governing Board’s actions indicate an attempt to return to practices found to have violated Arizona’s statutes in 2011,” a statement released to the Arizona Daily Star said. “It is the department’s intent to monitor how such materials are used as well as all classroom instruction and to take appropriate corrective action if the district is once again violating the law.”
The school district ended the MAS program and removed seven titles in response to a 2010 law passed by the Arizona state legislature that prohibited instruction based on ethnic background. When faced with loss of funding due to violation of the law, TUSD elected to end the MAS program. Throughout, TUSD has argued that the books were not banned because they were still available in the library, but the district has since found itself in violation of a decades-old desegregation lawsuit that mandates “culturally relevant” instruction.
TUSD responded to the concerns raised by the Department of Education, telling Huicochea that the department’s concerns are unfounded:
Despite the department’s concerns, the school district is confident the books will be used appropriately , said TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, adding, “If I thought otherwise, we would be having a different conversation.” Sanchez confirmed the district did not check with the state, noting it would not have done so for an algebra book either — but said that TUSD legal counsel researched it.
Until recently, the department has expressed approval for TUSD’s “culturally relevant” classes. Unannounced visits from the department have not uncovered any “material that would cause it to take further action to enforce the state law prohibiting classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals, or are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.”
The lift of the ban does not guarantee that the books will return to classrooms, but their use has been requested by teachers of mainstream classes at several Tucson schools. What is certain is that the Arizona Department of Education will be monitoring the use of the books closely.
To view CBLDF’s prior coverage of the ban, click on the links below: