The Schools Committee of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race would like to reaffirm its commitment to the robust implementation across all grades and subject areas in the District of the state-mandated Amistad curriculum, signed into law in 2002, and the AAPI curriculum, mandated to begin in the 2022-23 school year.
The purpose of the Amistad bill is for schools to “implement materials and texts which integrate the history and contributions of African-Americans and the descendants of the African Diaspora.” The AAPI legislation signed by Governor Murphy six months ago ensures “that the contributions, history, and heritage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are included” in social studies for all grades. We believe this is a critical step in combating systemic racism, as hate crimes and anti-AAPI sentiment, and pervasive anti-blackness are on the rise, (Hate Crimes Reach The Highest Level In More Than A Decade). While the focus is on Amistad and AAPI curricula, we recognize that there are other marginalized groups that are not represented in our curriculum. Our expectation is that, along with teachers’ professional development and anti-bias training, our district is committed to creating a future in which all students are represented and where we truly regard our district’s (and society’s) diversity as our strength.
One of the goals of the Community Coalition on Race is a school district in which “students of all races are achieving academic excellence in an equitable and representative fashion throughout our public school system”. As Amber Reed and Jeffrey Chang of AAPI Montclair stated, “All children deserve to know they matter, that they belong, and they too are part of our country and state’s history.”
The Schools Committee of the Coalition asks the Board and the Superintendent to provide the community with an update on the current status of Amistad and AAPI curriculum implementation across all grade levels and all subjects in which these curricula are being or will be taught.
We look forward to a time when students of all backgrounds will feel represented in the classroom. We believe that implementation of a more inclusive curriculum will lead to increased knowledge, equity and understanding of our shared history. The teaching of more diverse curricula provides a structured, safe space to have conversations and build trust — something that we at the Coalition have been working to create for 25 years.
We urge you to make every effort to implement these curricula thoughtfully and comprehensively, with the urgency that they deserve.
Carol Barry-Austin, Co-chair
Jocelyn Ryan, Co-chair
On behalf of the Schools Committee
South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race
August 1, 2022