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LA School Board Postpones Vote on Ethnic Studies Curriculum to August

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July 10, 2020
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 22: The courtyard of the Miguel Contreras Education Complex in downtown Los Angeles, California, sits empty on the sixth day of a citywide Teachers Strike, January 22, 2019. Despite the decision by administrators to keep schools open, student attendance has plummetted to less than 20%. Striking educators. supportive parents, and engaged students are demanding the Los Angeles Unified School District limit class sizes, fund more positions for nurses and counselors, and curtail charter school expansion across a student body of more than 600,000. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)

During a July 9 meeting, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education postponed until August its vote on the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC).

The resolution slated for a vote during the July 9 meeting was revised to state that the California Department of Education (CDE) is “committed to revising the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum in order to address feedback to its initial draft, honor the intersectionality of our students, and more accurately represent all ethnic and cultural groups, including addressing issues of anti-Semitism.”

StandWithUs executive director of research and strategy Max Samarov praised the board in a statement.

“We are encouraged by the Board’s decision to postpone the vote and amend the resolution,” Samarov said. “The most important question now is whether or not necessary changes will be made to the curriculum at a state level. We will continue engaging with and monitoring this issue closely over the next month and beyond.”

During the public comments period of the meeting, Sarah Levin, executive director of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), said, “My sons come from a Jewish background that includes Iraqi, Turkish and Israeli heritage. We are two of the more than 500,000 Californians of Middle Eastern heritage who were completely omitted from the Arab American Studies Course of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.”

“With a coalition of Mizrahi Jews, Assyrian Christians, Coptic Christians, Kurds and Iranians of various faiths — we are asking you to please focus on supporting the revision process mandated by the State Board of Education, and do not even consider a vote endorsing the first draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum,” she added.

Several high school students also sent an open letter to the LAUSD board on July 6 urging its members to decline to adopt the current ESMC draft because it doesn’t discuss anti-Semitism.

“A major goal of ethnic studies is for students from various ethnic groups to see their histories and experiences reflected in the classroom,” the letter stated. “Especially given the rise of anti-Semitism in high schools, this should apply to diverse Jewish students like us.”

Various Jewish groups have criticized the initial ESMC, which first was proposed in 2019, for not listing anti-Semitism as an example of bigotry and for glorifying the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The California State Board of Education announced in August 2019 that the curriculum would undergo serious revisions; later in the month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, vowed that the curriculum in its current form would “never see the light of day.”

The CDE is expected to provide a newly revised ethnic studies curriculum to the Instructional Quality Commission on Aug. 13.

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