Connecticut becomes first US state to make it mandatory for high schools to provide African-American studies

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Connecticut on Wednesday became the first US state to require all its high schools to provide a course on African-American, black, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies.

“Increasing the diversity of what we teach is critical to providing students with a better understanding of who we are as a society and where we are going,” said the state’s governor Ned Lamont, while calling it a step that is “long overdue.”

He said that adding this will be an “enormous benefit not only to our black and Latino students but to students of all backgrounds because everyone can benefit from these studies.”

According to a statement from the governor’s office, high schools may offer the course in 2021-2022 and will be required to offer it during the school year that begins in the autumn of 2022.

It is in accordance with the Public Act 19-12 that Mr Lamont signed last year. The law calls for directing all regional and local boards of education to include an elective course of studies at the high school level that provides students with a better understanding of African-American, black, Puerto Rican, and Latino contributions to US history, society, economy, and culture.

Last week, the Connecticut state board of education unanimously approved the curriculum for the course – a final step that was required to implement it.

“Identities matter, especially when 27 per cent of our students identify as Hispanic or Latino and 13 per cent identify as black or African-American. This curriculum acknowledges that by connecting the story of people of colour in the US to the larger story of American history,” said Connecticut education commissioner Miguel Cardona.

“The fact is that more inclusive, culturally relevant content in classrooms leads to greater student engagement and better outcomes for all. This law passed due in large part to the strong advocacy of students from around the state.”

State Senator Douglas McCrory said it was a “humbling experience to hear students passionately call for the black and Latino studies curriculum.”

While state representative Bobby Sanchez said the year-long study will give “students a more realistic view of their heritage and the many accomplishments of their ancestors.”

“It will lead to better racial relations in our communities and a more inclusive state for our children and theirs. At public hearings, last year students explained how history classes didn’t reflect their heritage. Now, high schoolers will have that opportunity,” said Mr Sanchez.