By Stephanie Siek, CNN
(CNN) - As students and faculty of several Tucson high schools protested the end of Mexican-American studies and removal of text books, some members of Congress are seeking an investigation into the ethnic studies ban.
On Monday, hundreds of students from Tucson Magnet High School and from Pueblo, Cholla and Wakefield high schools walked out of morning classes and marched to the Tucson Unified School District’s headquarters to protest the removal of dozens of Mexican-American studies textbooks, as well as the state-ordered suspension of the Mexican-American studies program. A petition aimed at getting the books back in the schools had gained more than 11,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office asking it to investigate the language of the law banning ethnic studies and its specific application against Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program.
On Tuesday, the American Library Association passed a resolution condemning the suspension of Tucson’s ethnic studies programs and the removal of materials associated with them. It also urges Arizona's legislature to repeal the law that bans ethnic studies in school curriculum.
Tucson schools Governing Board President Mark Stegeman said last week that part of the reason seven titles were being taken from classrooms was because none of them had gone through a required district approval process. But Three Sonorans, a local Tucson blog, uncovered a 2007 document that it says proves that three of the removed books had already gained district approval: “Critical Race Theory,” by Richard Delgado, “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos,” by Rodolfo Acuna, and “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” by Paulo Freire.
Tucson teacher Norma Gonzalez posted the petition at Change.org on Saturday. It calls on the school board to take the books out of storage at the district book depository, where they have been stored since January 11, and place them in school libraries where students can at least access them on their own.
"I call on the Tucson school board to immediately return these books – placing them in the libraries of the schools they were taken from," the petition reads. "Knowledge cannot be boxed off and carried away from students who want to learn!"
Gonzalez was a curriculum specialist and classroom teacher in several schools until the district’s decision to disband the Mexican-American studies program. She's still employed by the school district, but said she’s now uncertain of her future there.
For one seventh and eighth grade history class, Gonzalez said she was told to teach from of a state-issued Arizona state history textbook, which she said erroneously implied that a certain tribe of Native Americans was extinct.
"I was asked to focus on a chapter dealing with 'the mysterious disappearance of the O'odam people' – and there are two O'odam students in my class," Gonzalez said. "That’s the perspective of the district, which is not accurate. To have to read that to my students was abominable."