The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees is scheduled at its Sept. 27 meeting to hear an update on efforts to introduce ethnic studies courses.
MVLA Superintendent Nellie Meyer said district educators have been working on their own curriculum for “a couple of years,” prior to recent requirements at the state level.
Ethnic studies focuses on awareness and understanding of race, class, gender and sexuality. While in full support of moving forward with the curriculum, Meyer said the district is “still figuring out what that curriculum looks like.”
The discussion comes amid recent state legislation requiring ethnic studies as a high school graduation requirement, as well as an undergraduate requirement at state universities. The high school requirement awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature. Newsom last year signed off on the university requirement.
The subject matter has proven controversial, prompting accusations of antisemitism and white privilege as state educators grappled with ethnic studies guidance to attempt middle ground. The final draft for the model curriculum was signed off by the state’s Board of Education in March.
Still, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent spate of hate crimes against Asian Americans, ethnic studies proponents cite a need for the curriculum.
“Our teachers are adamant about providing a clear, well-balanced approach,” Meyer said.
Speakers at the MVLA board’s Aug. 23 meeting urged swift board action on approving an ethnic studies class as a requirement for incoming ninth-graders.
“We’re really excited to get this program going,” said Kiyoshi Taylor, a 2015 Los Altos High graduate and a leader of the local social justice group Justice Vanguard. “The biggest problem we have right now is even though you guys say you’re committed, so far it’s been only verbal. People are very passionate about it being a ninth-grade requirement. … It’s really strong in our community right now – they really want this.”
Jessica Shapiro, a senior at Los Altos High, said ethnic studies “is such an important class to have. I wish I had it as a freshman.”
Added another student addressing the board: “Highlighting culture is a nice thing to do, but ethnic studies is something that vigilantly fights against racism in our community. We need to get a move on this quickly.”