The creation of African American and Latin American and Puerto Rican studies curriculum for high schoolers won’t be finalized until December and classes will be optional in 2021.
But that’s not good enough for some parents.
The newly formed Coalition for Educational Justice and a Culturally Responsive Curriculum wants the curriculum to reach a broader, younger audience and is writing letters to school superintendents throughout the state to ask for a “more inclusive curriculum.”
The first of these letters were sent this week to Region 4 Superintendent of Schools, Brian White.
“If we can make changes in schools and education, then there will be real change throughout society,” said Nikki Poulard, who is in a bi-racial marriage to her husband JP who is originally from Haiti. The couple have five bi-racial children and are in the Region 4 School system.
Poulard and her husband, in collaboration with several others, including Kristen Alexander, who is also in a bi-racial marriage raising a bi-racial daughter, started the Coalition for Educational Justice and a Culturally Responsive Curriculum at the end of June. Their first course of action was to pen a letter asking for change.
“We really want this Coalition to be a collaborative effort and a resource for people to turn to when they need information, are seeking support from others, or are looking to find other like-minded people within their districts and the state, who want to make a change in their schools. The eventual goal is to see major changes statewide,” Poulard said.
The group wants the state to re-evaluate and revise how the current curriculum presents American history. They also want it to address ongoing racism in America, including issues of redlining and mass incarceration. They also want to make Africa- American studies a graduation requirement for high schoolers. It will only be an elective when it’s offered this winter.
The group is also asking for more black authors in the English curriculum at all levels.
White already started the conversation last month when he sent a letter to parents about the Black Lives Matter protests.
“The protests about racial equality and social justice that have taken place across our country these past several weeks have given us reason to pause and reflect on our own lives and communities,” White wrote. “As parents and educators, we must ask ourselves the question; ‘Do all of our students and families feel accepted equally as members of our school communities?’ Especially during these times, I, standing with the Chairs of our Boards of Education, remain committed to ensuring educational equity for all of our students in every aspect of their school experience.”
White also said that the district is in a multi-year process of revising its K-12 curriculum.
“Additionally, we will begin the process of developing specific course offerings in African-American and black studies, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies at Valley Regional High School for the 2022-2023 school year. We will be forming a district-wide Equity Committee this fall that will include representation from all stakeholders in our school system,” White said.
The new Equity Committee will be in charge of recommendations to the administration.
Poulard praised the administration for its proactive approach.
“This is an important issue and a timely one that needs to be addressed,” Alexander said. “Black people and black culture are an integral part of the history of this country. They literally put their blood sweat and tears into building this country and we need to be teaching their history as well the history of indigenous people.”
Legislation that would have required the teaching of Native American studies died when the legislative session was cut short because of COVID-19.