Students and parents arrive masked for the first day of the school year at Grant Elementary School in Los Angeles on Aug. 16, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
Beginning this 2023-24 academic school year, all incoming Los Angeles Unified high school students must complete an ethnic studies course in order to graduate.
Currently, 170 of the district’s schools offer at least one of the 11 ethnic studies courses approved by the district—including courses in African American literature, history and studies, as well as American Indian studies, Pacific Islander studies, and Mexican American literature, poetry and history, according to an update by district officials Oct. 26 during a board meeting on curricula.
There are also ethnic studies courses offering “identity exploration.”
Since 2020, student enrollment in ethnic studies courses have risen by 300 percent from approximately 8,000 students to more than 25,000, according to school officials.
School board president Jackie Goldberg said the courses are a “step toward building a curriculum that better reflects the history and culture of California’s diverse community.”
“Ethnic studies provides many academic benefits,” she said during the meeting. “Young people get to learn about how people from their own and different backgrounds faced challenges and contributed to—and still contribute to—American society.”
The district’s ethnic studies requirement is taking place several years ahead of the state’s mandate, which was passed in 2021 and will take effect starting with the graduating class of 2029-30—though high schools must start to offer courses starting in the 2025-26 academic year.
Los Angeles Unified in August 2020 passed its “Ethnic Studies for All Students” resolution, requiring the district to begin offering such courses by the 2022-23 school year and making the courses a requirement for the graduating class of 2027.
According to the resolution, it was introduced because students of color from various ethnic and racial backgrounds make up approximately 90 percent of the district’s student population.
The district had 538,295 students enrolled in the 2022-23 school year, according to state education database EdData. Though ethnic and racial demographic numbers are not yet available for 2022-23, the district had about 492,391—or roughly 89.7 percent of 548,335 non-white students last school year.
“What we teach our youth about their ancestral legacies, and culture is essential in the fight for racial justice and equity; and the promise of full inclusion of the legacies of ethnic and cultural groups who have contributed to the development of our country has not yet been realized,” the resolution stated.
to the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, ethnic studies curriculum is often “rooted in the divisive ideology of CRT [critical race theory], with ‘critique [of] empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression.’”
“Instituting ethnic studies classes through the lenses of anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism and anti-racism ... inflame[s] our societal divisions, further sowing hatred and confusions in our students along the dichotomy of oppressors vis-à-vis victims,” stated
The AMCHA Initiative, a pro-Israel campus advocacy group, also reports
ethnic studies courses typically portray counties such as Israel as “racist,” “colonialist,” “systems of oppression,” often leading to “the incitement of hatred and harm against Jewish and pro-Israel students.”