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Ethnic Studies Group is Teaching Anti-Israel Hatred; Some School Districts Are Saying Yes

By Max Samarov | The Algemeiner | July 19, 2023


In June 2023, the Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) in Northern California signed a contract worth over $90,000, with a group called the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium (LESMCC).


The LESMCC is tasked with training HUSD teachers and helping create curriculum materials for ethnic studies courses, which are a graduation requirement in the district. On the surface, none of this screams “antisemitism,” but it is contracts like this one that could lead to bigotry against Jews becoming institutionalized in K-12 public schools.


Numerous states and school districts have begun offering or requiring ethnic studies for students in high school, and even earlier. Their broad goal is to educate about groups that have been left out or misrepresented in traditional US history. Ethnic studies courses are seen as a solution, because they center Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American communities, and sometimes cover Jews or others.


While empowering students to understand America’s diverse society, fight racism, and build a better future is vital, HUSD’s embrace of LESMCC shows how such efforts can go off the rails.


The LESMCC was formed in 2020 by writers of the first draft of California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), which was rejected by state officials in 2019.

That draft was widely criticized for promoting antisemitism, anti-Israel narratives, and other forms of bias. However, the LESMCC insisted that this curriculum represented the only authentic way to teach ethnic studies. Since then, they have been marketing their services directly to California school districts.


Many Jewish groups have sounded alarm bells about LESMCC’s record. Its leadership has smeared the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as a “white supremacist” group, and its website promoted false claims that erase 3,000 years of the Jewish people’s history in their ancestral homeland.


The group also co-founded the national Coalition for Liberated Ethnic Studies (CLES), together with a close ally who is on record claiming that, “bringing down Israel really will benefit everyone in the world.” The goals of this coalition include opposing the consensus IHRA working definition of antisemitism.


Nevertheless, in 2021, HUSD became one of LESMCC’s first clients and soon published an official policy saying that its ethnic studies curriculum will prioritize “Palestinian narratives.”

When Jews raised concerns and asked to be included as well, the district responded that, “Jewish Studies and Israeli Studies are not part of the Ethnic Studies discipline.”


LESMCC leaders have gone even further, claiming that including Jewish American voices is “arguably racist.” This approach is in conflict with the White House Antisemitism Strategy, the California State Board of Education, and leading ethnic studies scholars such as Ronald Tataki and James A. Banks.


Moreover, teaching controversial issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while intentionally leaving out Jewish and Israeli voices is a clear violation of HUSD’s own policies.


The broader context is even more disturbing. A recent study by the ADL found that “antisemitic incidents in Northern California have jumped by 137% from 2021 to 2022.”

In 2023, HUSD became part of this trend, when a high school teacher was exposed for pushing antisemitic conspiracy theories and even performing the Nazi salute in class. To their credit, non-Jewish students stepped up and spoke out against this hate. However, the district took two months to place the teacher on administrative leave, and has been widely criticized for sweeping the issue under the rug. A few months later, HUSD unanimously approved its latest contract with LESMCC.


It seems that no amount of criticism or controversy will stop HUSD from plowing ahead without any regard for Jewish concerns. And while most districts do not act this way, we are seeing similar issues arise in too many other places.


Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to these problems, but there is a lot we can and must do. This includes engaging local teachers and education officials, increasing education about our community in public schools, building alliances with other communities, voting in local school board elections, advocating for better state education policies, and taking legal action when necessary. If we work together with creativity and determination, we can stop antisemitism from being institutionalized in public schools and educate millions of students about who we actually are.


Max Samarov is executive director of research and strategy for StandWithUs, an international non-partisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism.


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