Jewish Caucus Leaders Issue Statement on Ethnic Studies Legislation

Monday, August 31, 2020

Legislation Now Includes “Guardrails” Requested by the Jewish Caucus that Address Concerns About Anti-Jewish and Anti-Israel Bias in the Prior Draft of the Model Curriculum


Sacramento, CA —  Senator Ben Allen (D - Santa Monica) and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D - Encino), Chair and Vice Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, released the following statement regarding the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 331 (Medina), which would make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement in the State of California. The bill now heads to Governor Newsom’s desk, where it must be signed or vetoed by September 30, 2020.

“Today, the Legislature passed AB 331, a priority bill for the Latino, Black, and Asian Pacific Islander legislative caucuses. It is our sincere hope that this course will provide an opportunity for young Californians to deepen their understanding of our society’s complex history when it comes to issues of race and diversity. We are pleased that AB 331 now includes firm guardrails that will prohibit the teaching of any curriculum that promotes bias, bigotry, or discrimination, including against Jews or Israelis. These guardrails were developed in direct response to concerns about offensive anti-Jewish and anti-Israel content that was included in the initial draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, and send a clear and unequivocal message to every school district in California that bigotry and discrimination have no place in our classrooms. We look forward to continuing to work with our legislative colleagues, Governor Newsom, and community partners to ensure that we have a strong curriculum that is free from inappropriate bias, and that will provide all students in our diverse state with the important benefits of ethnic studies.”

The new guardrails were modeled after existing provisions of the California Education Code (which aim to ensure that all students in California are provided with unbiased and medically accurate information about sex and same sex relationships), and were amended into AB 331 in the Senate Appropriations Committee following consultation with the author. The text of the guardrails is included below:

(iv) Instruction and materials for a course [in Ethnic Studies] shall meet all of the following requirements:

(I) Be appropriate for use with pupils of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, pupils with disabilities, and English learners.

(II) Not reflect or promote, directly or indirectly, any bias, bigotry, or discrimination against any person or group of persons on the basis of any category protected by Section 220.

(III) Not teach or promote religious doctrine.

The guardrails strengthen existing provisions of the California Education Code, as well as state and federal law, that already prohibit discrimination in public education, and provide clear direction to local school districts and the California Department of Education that anti-Jewish and anti-Israel content cannot be included in the teaching of ethnic studies.

The initial draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, which was released in 2019, included highly-problematic content about Jews and Israelis. A new draft of the Model Curriculum is currently in development, and must be approved by the State Board of Education by March 31, 2021.

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