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Update on California Ethnic Studies Bill, AB101

Assembly Bill 101 (AB101) is legislation that would make ethnic studies a graduation requirement for all public high school students in California, starting with the 2029-2030 academic year.

StandWithUs has been deeply involved in the debate over ethnic studies in California since August, 2019. We are sharing an update now because AB101 has passed the California Assembly and Senate, and is expected to be signed by the Governor soon.

We believe the goal of ethnic studies is important and positive: to represent and uplift marginalized communities in public education. Because of our work together with thousands of citizens and partners across the state, the California State Board of Education recognized that content about Jews and antisemitism belongs in K-12 ethnic studies.

However, interest groups are working harder than ever to use these courses as a platform for anti-Israel propaganda, antisemitism, and other forms of bias. They are pushing slanderous curriculum materials directly to local teachers, schools, and school districts, regardless of what California's state government does.

We cannot allow this hatred to be institutionalized in our public education system, especially through courses that students are required to take in order to graduate. As such, we supported amendments to AB101 and have been closely tracking the bill.

The original version of AB101 included a requirement that ethnic studies instruction and materials, "not reflect or promote, directly or indirectly, any bias, bigotry, or discrimination" against anyone based on their identity.

The final version included key amendments added by Senator Anthony Portantino, which do the following:

1) Clarify that the requirement prohibiting bias, bigotry, and discrimination applies to all ethnic studies "curriculum, instruction, and instructional materials".

2) Clarify that all ethnic studies curriculum, instruction, instructional materials, and lesson plans must be appropriate for use with students of all nationalities.

3) Add guidelines stating that when developing their own ethnic studies courses, local schools and school districts should not use parts of the draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) that were rejected by state education officials due to bias and bigotry.

So what does this all mean?

Even with these amendments, StandWithUs fully expects widespread efforts to inject antisemitism and anti-Israel bias into ethnic studies courses. However, the latest changes to AB101 create additional tools that people all over California can and should use to fight back in schools and school districts where this hatred appears. The changes can also help with approaching school districts proactively.

In short, no matter what happens with AB101, we have a lot of work to do and we need as many people as possible across California to get involved.

Indeed, the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, stated that, "our work is far from complete. In the coming months, the Jewish Caucus will continue to remain actively engaged to ensure that the teaching of ethnic studies is free from any anti-Jewish bias or discrimination and adheres to the highest educational standards.”

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing many important resources and updates that will empower you to engage effectively and proactively with local schools and school districts. As always, we will never stop fighting for our children and yours.


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