NEW JERSEY - A new pair of New Jersey education laws are getting big praise from advocates who represent one of the largest Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations in the nation.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed S4021/A6100 and S3764/A3369 into law on Tuesday, raising a big cheer from supporters in the process.
S4021 will create an AAPI curriculum requirement for schools. S3764 will establish a Commission for Asian American Heritage within the state Department of Education (learn more about each bill below).
According to Murphy, the laws are being rolled out to ensure that the contributions, history, and heritage of AAPI residents are included in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Social Studies for students in kindergarten through grade 12.
"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," Murphy said.
Angelica Allen-McMillan, the state's acting commissioner of education, said the curriculum changes will help reflect the diversity of New Jersey.
"In addition, the establishment of the Commission on Asian American Heritage will serve as an invaluable resource to enhance classroom instruction throughout the state," Allen-McMillan said.
Several AAPI advocates and community members applauded the new laws. They included:
Kani Ilangovan of Make Us Visible NJ - "The New Jersey Asian American community applauds Gov. Murphy and the Legislature for their bold and timely leadership incorporating the Asian American experience as part of our public-school curriculum. 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. According to the latest Stop AAPI Hate report, 1 in 3 AAPI parents stated that their child experienced a hate incident in school in this past year. With the rise of anti-Asian violence, education is the best antidote to hate."
Amman Deep Singh Seehra, vice chair of SALDEF - "The Sikh community is excited to see the State of New Jersey leading the country by passing this legislation. According to SALDEF's National Sikh Survey, 58% of the Sikh community has experienced bullying or harassment and this is a positive step to help reduce that discrimination. Students now will start to learn about the contributions of the AAPI community in the United States, which better reflects our true history and showcases the contributions by everyone."
Amber Reed and Jeffrey Chang of AAPI Montclair - "These laws exemplify our New Jersey values and we are so grateful to Gov. Murphy and the Legislature. Amidst the tide of anti-Asian hate, we found hope in joining a diverse coalition of parents, advocates, students, and legislators to use the best tool we have to fight hate: education. All children deserve to know they matter, that they belong, and they too are part of our country and state's history. In our own community we have seen how swiftly the lives and mental health of children can improve when their stories are taught in their classrooms. We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that the promise of these laws is realized and that all New Jersey children grow up with acceptance, belonging, and love."
Russell Fan, co-founder of the Livingston AAPI Youth Alliance - "I am looking forward to having New Jersey schools include Asian American history and contributions in the public-school curriculum. 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. The most important result of these legislations, moving forward, is that it will set the stage for inspiring more younger students to participate and contribute to the movement."
TEACHING ASIAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE IN SCHOOLS
Assembly sponsors Raj Mukherji, Mila Jasey, Britnee Timberlake and Sterley Stanley released a joint statement about S4021/A6100:
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, a prime sponsor of S3764, said people of Asian descent have experienced discrimination in the Garden State long before 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic "clearly exacerbated" acts of hatred and bigotry.
"Even more frightening is the fact that many incidents go unreported, leaving open the question of just how many people have experienced harassment, or even violence," Johnson said. "Hate has no home in New Jersey, and we have a responsibility to teach our children the importance of tolerance and acceptance."
Assemblyman Sterley Stanley, the first person of South Asian descent from Middlesex County to join the New Jersey General Assembly, also lauded the new laws.
"The Asian American and Pacific Islander community has enriched every corner of New Jersey's culture, economy, schools, arts, businesses and so much more," said Stanley, a sponsor of S3764. "The programs developed under this bill will reinforce to students that our state's diversity is our strength."
"Representation matters," agreed Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak, another supporter of S3764.
"This bill will ensure people of Asian descent are included in our students' curriculum, potentially bringing in-depth Asian history to some classrooms for the first time," Karabinchak said.
See related article: NJ Commission Will Advocate For Asian American Residents
See related article: NJ Bias Incidents Against Asians Up 82%, New Data Shows
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This article originally appeared on the Montclair Patch