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The Sikh Coalition News
October 8, 2021
  • Fateh! Governor Newsom Signs Ethnic Studies Bill

    October 8, 2021 (Sacramento, CA) -- Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB101, a bill that will make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement for public school and charter school students throughout California--the first state nationally to do so.

    Thanks to the sangat's advocacy, in March of 2021, California approved an ethnic studies model curriculum (ESMC), which included Sikh stories and the positive contributions of California's Sikh-American community through a lesson plan submitted by the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement. In addition to making ethnic studies a graduation requirement and allowing for the use of the ESMC, AB101 will provide millions in funding for implementation and educator professional development.

    “The ethnic studies course requirement will provide an even greater opportunity for the Sikh community’s stories and important contributions to be taught across California,” said Pritpal Kaur, Sikh Coalition Education Director. “Alongside the dedicated funding that will come with the new law, the inclusion of Sikh content in the state model curriculum that the community advocated for earlier this year, and our ongoing collaboration with other ethnic studies practitioners and experts, we will keep pushing to make sure that ethnic studies courses that include Sikh stories appear in California classrooms.”

    This achievement could not have been possible without the support of the California sangat. In March of 2020, the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement submitted comprehensive recommendations for improving the ESMC, along with a draft lesson plan; we then worked with 52 gurdwaras and more than 1,200 petition signers to endorse this proposal. Over numerous public comment periods, we have supported hundreds of Sikh community members to provide written and spoken remarks in favor of Sikh inclusion. And last October, the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement met with CDE officials and recruited a bipartisan group of 25 California assemblymembers and state senators to join a letter in support of our efforts.

    “The Sikh community in California worked tirelessly for 18 months to make their voices heard in the ethnic studies conversation through public comments, letters, gurdwara communities and leadership, and rallying support from elected and appointed officials,” said Naindeep Singh, Executive Director of the Jakara Movement. “Those efforts have paid off, and we’ll continue to work to make sure that ethnic studies classes that are inclusive of Sikh stories and other marginalized communities make it into our state’s schools.”

    AB101 calls on public and charter high schools to begin to offer ethnic studies in the 2025-2026 school year; the graduation requirement itself will come into effect in the 2029-2030 school year. As we have seen before, curriculums and social studies standards are only part of the equation: sustained community involvement is essential to ensuring that accurate and appropriate information about the Sikh community is taught in classrooms. Accordingly, on June 30, the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement co-hosted a webinar with Punjabi Radio USA discussing how Sikh parents and high school students can help. As a reminder, you can follow these easy steps to reach out to your school:
    1. Learn who is responsible for teaching ethnic studies at the school and secure their contact information; and
    2. Email the Sikh Coalition’s education team at education@sikhcoalition.org with this information, along with the name of the school, the student’s name, and their grade level.

    The Sikh Coalition will then reach out to the teacher who is responsible for teaching ethnic studies and provide them with the most relevant teaching materials depending on their curriculum. We are glad to help you navigate this process, given that each school district will approach the implementation of this law--and ethnic studies in general--in different ways.

    While this bill signing represents a significant victory for our community, it is important to recognize that AB101 faced criticism and that the ESMC did fall short and leave many other marginalized communities behind. Accordingly, we continue our shared efforts to advance anti-racist education for all.

    As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.

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