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September 27, 2021 5:04 pm
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Thousands Petition California Gov Newsom to Veto New Ethnic Studies Bill

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The California State Capitol in Sacramento. Photo Credit: Wayne Hsieh / Flickr

Several thousand Californians have signed a petition released Monday that calls on Governor Gavin Newsom to veto the state’s recently-passed bill mandating ethnic studies as a high school graduation requirement.

The petitioners argued that despite language in Assembly Bill 101 (AB 101) aimed at preventing the adoption of antisemitic or anti-Israel material, school districts could still use the previously vetoed, first draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, which accuses Israel of settler colonialism and apartheid.

In 2020, Newsom said the first draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (EMSC) was “offensive in so many ways,” and later vetoed an earlier measure to require its adoption in California schools.

The version of the mandate passed on Sept. 8, and was praised by the California Legislative Jewish Caucus for including “important clarifying amendments” they said addressed concerns raised by the Jewish community.

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But, wrote the petitioners on Monday, “despite new ‘guardrail’ language, AB 101 does not, and by law cannot, prevent a school district from adopting the overtly antisemitic first draft or an even more extreme Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (LESMC) from being peddled to school districts by the first-draft’s authors.”

“The Liberated curriculum includes overtly anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist lessons and explicitly promotes student engagement in actions to harm Israel,” said the petition, which said it was signed by “2,972 members and supporters of the California Jewish community.”

The signatories also objected to the procedure for using alternative courses by school districts other than the state’s model curriculum, in which a “locally-developed” ethnic studies course can be taught provided it is first presented at a public school district meeting and then approved.

“The Jewish community is simply not capable of challenging an antisemitic curriculum in every one of the hundreds of school districts where it will likely be considered, and it is a moral outrage to expect Jewish parents to fight against antisemitism being taught to their children in a state-mandated course,” they said.

Governor Newsom has until October 10 to sign AB 101 into law.

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