New Legislation Mandates Latinx and African American Studies at Connecticut Schools

A bill in Connecticut’s state legislature requiring Latinx and African American studies be a part of the public school curriculum was passed by the Senate on Thursday, May 30. House Bill 7082 was introduced by State Representative Bobby Sanchez (D-New Britain) and would include African American, Puerto Rican, and Latinx studies in the public high school curriculum. It was cleared by the House of Representatives in late May, the Hartford Courant reported.

“This bill will benefit all students of Connecticut because of its inclusiveness. Not only will it allow many students to identify with their cultural heritage and history, but it also will help break down the barriers of prejudice that divide us,” said Sanchez in a statement. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate on Thursday, according to the Hartford Courant. State Senator Douglas McCrory (D-Hartford) co-sponsored the bill and said it is a shame students don’t learn about the achievements of African or Latinx Americans. McCrory has worked as an educator for over 20 years.

"They hadn’t seen themselves, they hadn’t seen their stories,'' McCrory said on the Senate floor, according to the publication. “I hadn’t seen my stories and I hadn’t seen my mother’s and my father’s and my grandparents’ stories. It’s high time that we as leaders provide every student with the opportunity to learn from each other. This curriculum will not just benefit African American and Latino people but all our students... we need a curriculum where every child can learn each other’s history.'' The bill has gained support from the state Department of Education, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, and from students across the state. It also received bi-partisan support within the state legislature, the New Britain Herald reported.

"There’s an old saying: if we forget history we’re doomed to repeat it,'' Senator Eric Berthel (R-Watertown) told the Hartford Courant. “As Americans, regardless of our nationality, regardless of our race, we have an obligation to not forget history.” The bill will now head to Governor Ned Lamont for consideration, according to the publication. The courses would officially be a part of the state’s curriculum by 2022 and will be offered as an elective.

The piece of legislation will also require the State Department of Education to conduct an audit from July 2022 through July 2024 to ensure that the course is being offered by each local and regional board of education in the state, The Connecticut Mirror reported. On Wednesday, May 29, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement made with a private school in Bronxville, New York to improve its approach on diversity. The school came under fire after a teacher held mock slave auctions in several fifth grade classrooms. The teacher who had white students bid on their Black classmates was fired.

The school will now have to hire a chief diversity officer and ensure that the school's staff members are diverse. It would also require the school to increase its financial aid for a more diverse student body, and create a formal complaint procedure so that students and parents can report any kind of discrimination. “Every young person — regardless of race — deserves the chance to attend school free of harassment, bias, and discrimination,” James said in a statement. “Lessons designed to separate children on the basis of race have no place in New York classrooms, or in classrooms throughout this country.”

In April, the University of Cambridge in the UK announced that it was launching a two-year study to help uncover how the university contributed to enslavement between the 18th and early 20th centuries. The study would be conducted by two post-doctoral researchers at the Cambridge Centre of African Studies, according to a previous statement from the university.

“There is growing public and academic interest in the links between the older British universities and the slave trade, and it is only right that Cambridge should look into its own exposure to the profits of coerced labor during the colonial period,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Toope in the statement. “We cannot change the past, but nor should we seek to hide from it. I hope this process will help the University understand and acknowledge its role during that dark phase of human history.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.