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3,000 Petition Newsom to Veto Ethnic Studies Requirement Bill


Contact: Nicole Rosen

Santa Cruz, CA, September 27, 2021 – Thousands of Californians today petitioned Governor Gavin Newsom to veto AB 101, a bill mandating an ethnic studies high school graduation requirement.  The California legislature recently voted to advance AB 101, and the bill now heads to Newsom, who has until Oct. 10 to act.

Last week, the LA Times editorialized against AB 101 and urged Newsom to veto the bill for the same reasons raised by the petitioners.

“Despite new ‘guardrail’ language, AB 101 does not, and by law cannot, prevent a school district from adopting the overtly antisemitic first draft or an even more extreme Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (LESMC) from being peddled to school districts by the first-draft's authors. The Liberated curriculum includes overtly anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist lessons and explicitly promotes student engagement in actions to harm Israel, especially BDS,” wrote the petitioners.

The signatories are referring to the first draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), which was roundly rejected by all Jewish communal organizations, Governor Newsom, the State Board of Education, and California’s Jewish Legislative Caucus for its antisemitic content and promotion of BDS. After that draft failed, the state went through multiple rounds of revisions and ultimately approved a curriculum that omitted the antisemitic and anti-Zionist content.  In protest the authors of the first draft withdrew their names from the state’s final approved curriculum and founded the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Institute, and their curriculum is expected to be even more antisemitic than the original ESMC.

The Liberated group’s website smears Israel with false charges of “settler colonialism” and “apartheid” and uses classic anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish wealth and power to vilify Jewish organizations speaking out about anti-Semitism; encourages teachers to “create a space within your school” to engage in anti-Zionist activism and to fight the “Zionist backlash,” identified as “white supremacy”; promotes anti-Zionist groups calling for Israel’s destruction; and provides “skill-building” and “training” on how to start your own BDS campaign.

While AB 101 encourages local school districts to use the state-approved ESMC, the bill permits local school districts to use any curriculum, including the highly controversial and overtly antisemitic first ESMC draft or the even more dangerously antisemitic Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.

“If AB 101 becomes law, hundreds of districts will have to quickly decide which curriculum to adopt as the basis for the new requirement. Although the bill encourages adoption of the SBE-approved ESMC and requires local school districts to publicly vet any ethnic studies curriculum other than the state-approved ESMC, the reality is that many, if not most, districts will still prefer the highly problematic Liberated curriculum because of its overwhelming support from the state's major teachers’ unions and higher education community, as well as the successful efforts of the LESMC group to create pathways for teacher training and professional development using their antisemitic curriculum,” cautioned the petitioners.

“The Jewish community is simply not capable of challenging such an antisemitic curriculum in every one of the hundreds of school districts where it will likely be considered, and it is a moral outrage to expect Jewish parents to fight against antisemitism being taught to their children in a state-mandated course,” added the petitioners.

Last Monday, nearly 200 California high school students and parents signed a petition opposing AB 101, citing “[t]his bill will sanction the hounding of Zionist students in high schools across the state and encourage similar behavior across the nation.”  And on Thursday hundreds of Holocaust survivors called on Newsom to veto the bill.

Last year AMCHA successfully urged Governor Newsom to veto AB 331, the precursor of AB 101, and AMCHA’s Director, Rossman-Benjamin was the first to expose the way in which the discipline of Critical Ethnic Studies is deeply antisemitic and anti-Zionist. AMCHA has led several coalition efforts to educate officials about the dangers of a curriculum based on Critical Ethnic Studies. AMCHA’s Director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, has testified before the California Senate Education Committee and the Assembly Education Committee against AB 101, and provided evidence that if AB 101 becomes law, most school districts will adopt some version of the rejected antisemitic first draft.

AMCHA monitors more than 450 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 3,500 anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses since 2015. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.

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