California Becomes First State to Require Ethnic Studies for High School Students to Graduate

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High school students in California’s class of 2030 will be required to complete an ethnic studies course to graduate, according to a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday.

Golden State is believed to be the first in the United States to institute such a mandate.

The state’s public and charter schools must offer at least one ethnic studies course beginning in the 2025-2026 school year.

Students will be required to take the class in addition to other standard gender education requirements in English, math, science, and social studies.

The requirement can be completed through the school’s existing ethnic studies class, a course approved by the University of California and California State University, or one developed locally.

The new bill, AB 101, was written by California Assemblyman Jose Medina, a Riverside Democrat. Medina, who introduced the legislation in 2020, called it a step “in the long fight for equal education for all students.”

“Thank you Governor Newsom for signing AB 101. The inclusion of ethnic studies in the high school curriculum is long overdue,” Medina said in a statement. “Students cannot have a complete understanding of the history of our state and nation without including the contributions and struggles of Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans.”

California Becomes First State to Require Ethnic Studies for High School Students to Graduate
California public and charter schools will be required to offer at least one ethnic studies course beginning in the 2025-2026 school year.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The model curriculum focuses on four historically marginalized groups and their contributions to American history, according to KTLA, including: African Americans, Chicanos and other Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

It also includes lesson plans on American Jews, American Arabs, American Sikhs and American Armenians, who had lobbied against a similar earlier bill that had excluded them, the outlet reported.

According to the bill, the course must meet the following criteria:

  • Be appropriate for use with students of all races, religions, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English learners.
  • Not reflect or promote, directly or indirectly, any prejudice, bigotry or discrimination against any person or group of people on the basis of any category protected by Section 220.
  • Do not teach or promote religious doctrine.
Courses focus on select underserved groups who have contributed to American history, including African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.
Courses focus on select underserved groups who have contributed to American history, such as African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Los Angeles School District, the second-largest in the nation, had already voted last year to require an ethnic studies course as a requirement for the 2023-2024 school year, KTLA reported.

Newsom also signed legislation that requires public schools and universities to offer free menstruation products in all bathrooms.

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