The Los Alamitos Unified School District unanimously voted to implement an ethnic studies class and textbook June 1, despite an outcry of opposition from the community.
The ethnic studies course is a year-long elective class for juniors and seniors in high school who either are currently taking, or have taken, American history.
The meeting was held virtually after the board was advised by the police to do so.
“The police advised us that the best way to keep people safe was to go virtual and that was why we made the decision,” board president Marlys Davidson said during the meeting.
“It was not COVID. The only part COVID played in this was that it forced us to socially distance in our meetings.”
The previous meeting May 11 was also held online, during which more than 150 protestors gathered outside the district office to oppose the district’s new social justice standards.
The ethnic studies course comes at the request of “students, parents, and community members” and has been in the process of fruition for over a year, board member Megan Cutuli said during the June 1 meeting.
“Students need to hear different and varying opinions, this course does all these things,” she said.
Many public commenters opposed the course, claiming the values it teaches run counter to the parents’ within the district.
“We previewed the ethnic studies materials and the social justice standards and we find them to be counter to our beliefs and how we want our children to view America and fellow Americans,” one public commenter said.
“The emphasis on race, sexual identity and gender divides rather than unites.”
Another public commenter said: “The proposed program teaches children that we were not created equal at various points in history. Anglo children being taught that their family may have been racist, slave owners, etc. How is this good? Is that lifting children up, teaching positive reinforcement that they are worthy no matter in what family they grew up?”
However, there was some support for the course during the public comment period.
One parent read over the text for the new course with her children. She said “there was an excitement in their voices in reading through the text … in which they saw themselves and stories of those like them and different from them represented in the curriculum.”
Another public commenter said: “The ethnic studies curriculum and the units created bring students and the community together, highlighting in the first few units the distinct contributions and experiences of ethnic groups in our community, as well as centering on our commonalities that bring groups together in units five through eight.”
Board vice president Diana Hill said: “Previously, we’ve had a lot of public come forward and say we really want that. A lot of students come forward … and they were asking for us to mandate it to be a high school graduation requirement.”
The approved textbook is A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki.
Cutuli said the text outlines the country as a “combination of all of the people in the United States from whatever background they are, that comes together is what really truly makes America what it is.”