New Jersey becomes second state to require Asian American history to be taught in schools

New Jersey becomes the second state to require Asian American history to be taught in schools. Pictured is the New Jersey State House in Trenton on November 10, 2021.

By Nicole Chavez, CNN

(CNN) -- New Jersey will soon require Asian American history to be taught in public schools.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation on Tuesday that will make it mandatory for K-12 schools to include Asian American and Pacific Islander history in their curriculums starting on the 2022-2023 school year. The move makes New Jersey the second state in the nation to require the curriculum change, after Illinois.

"By teaching students about the history and heritage of our AAPI community, we can ensure that the diversity of our state is reflected in our curriculum and create a more tolerant and knowledgeable future for New Jersey. I am proud to sign these bills into law," Murphy said in a statement.

In addition, another law will establish a Commission for Asian American Heritage within the state's Department of Education. One of the commission's goals will be to provide guidance to public and nonpublic schools in the "implementation of historical, cultural and educational programs concerning people of Asian and Asian American descent," and help develop curriculum guidelines.

Make Us Visible NJ, a coalition of students, parents, educators and community members who led the efforts in support of the bills, said the new laws are "a concrete way to prevent anti-Asian hate and support the mental health of Asian American children."

The coalition spent months meeting with schools boards and teacher's unions to implement AAPI lessons in classrooms, organized rallies and met regularly with state lawmakers.

"All children deserve to know they belong. All children deserve to feel safe. This law will help ensure Asian Americans are represented in our great American story," said Dr. Kani Ilangovan, a member of the coalition.

The coalition's work has been part of a fresh drive from teachers, organizations and legislators -- motivated by a surge in anti-Asian violence and last year's shootings in the Atlanta area that left six Asian women dead -- to bring more nuanced, representative Asian American history to classrooms.

Teachers and education researchers previously told CNN that mentions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in school curriculums are limited. And mentions in social studies and history lessons are mostly limited to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and Chinese immigration and their participation in building railroads.

Russell Fan, a high school senior and co-founder of the Livingston AAPI Youth Alliance, said the new laws will help more students feel valued and even encourage them to participate.

"We will be able to feel more visible and safer, and that we are valued in our shared history, in the country we have built and continue to build together," Fan said in a statement.

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