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September 2, 2020 9:32 am

Ethnic-Studies Requirement for High-Schoolers Passes California Legislature

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The California State Capitol Building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – A bill to require high school students in California to take ethnic studies as a graduation requirement passed the state’s legislature on Monday.

Ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline, AB-331 passed the State Senate 33-4 and the State Assembly 62-12. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is expected to sign it into law and must decide by Sept. 30 whether to do so.

The measure would require a one-semester ethnic-studies course as a California high school graduation requirement, starting with the 2029-30 school year, based on the ethnic-studies model curriculum developed by the state.

The bill was introduced in the spring of 2019 by State Assembly member Jose Medina, a Democrat who chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee and is a member of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

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Even with some revisions, California’s initiatives to have ethnic studies be in the state’s education system have come under fire for containing antisemitic and anti-Israel content, in addition to not addressing issues of antisemitism or including Jewish Americans.

Following the passage of the bill, Sen. Ben Allen and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, chair and vice chair, respectively, of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, sought to assure those critics.

In a statement, they said that the measure “includes firm guardrails that will prohibit the teaching of any curriculum that promotes bias, bigotry or discrimination, including against Jews or Israelis,” and that the guardrails “send a clear and unequivocal message to every school district in California that bigotry and discrimination have no place in our classrooms.”

“The guardrails strengthen existing provisions of the California Education Code, as well as state and federal law, that already prohibit discrimination in public education, and provide clear direction to local school districts and the California Department of Education that anti-Jewish and anti-Israel content cannot be included in the teaching of ethnic studies,” said Allen and Gabriel.

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