Connecticut is the first state to mandate its high schools to provide courses on Black and Latinx studies.

In a Wednesday statement, Governor Ned Lamont said the requirement would go into effect in the 2022 - 2023 school year.

Lamont approved Public Act 19-12 last year, which orders all regional and local boards of education to incorporate electives that provide pupils “with a better understanding of the African American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino contributions to United States history, society, economy, and culture.”

According to the bill, the classes would be added to the state’s social studies curriculum. 

The state’s Board of Education unanimously authorized the curriculum for the program. The action was the final step needed to carry out the requirement. According to the statement, high schools could offer the courses as soon as the upcoming school year, but the classes will be mandatory in 2022. 

“Increasing the diversity of what we teach is critical to providing students with a better understanding of who we are as a society and where we are going,” Lamont said. “Adding this course in our high schools will be an enormous benefit not only to our Black and Latino students but to students of all backgrounds because everyone can benefit from these studies,” Lamont added. “This is a step that is long overdue, and I applaud the work of the General Assembly, State Board of Education, and everyone at the State Education Resource Center whose collaborative work helped get this done.”

The state’s commissioner on education, Miguel Cardona, explained the law’s imperativeness.

“Identities matter, especially when 27% of our students identify as Hispanic or Latino and 13% identify as Black or African-American,” Cardona said.

According to the governor’s statement, the new curriculum would focus on content knowledge and student identity development. In execution of the new mandate, the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to cultivate an inclusive educational program. The process will be directed by a 150-member panel consisting of “educators, administrators, higher education professors and scholars, national researchers and historians, representatives from education and community organizations, and studies and families.”

The panel will be divided into nine groups that will take on separate tasks. 

“This curriculum acknowledges that by connecting the story of people of color in the U.S. to the larger story of American history. The fact is that more inclusive, culturally relevant content in classrooms leads to greater student engagement and better outcomes for all,” Cardona said. “This law passed due in large part to the strong advocacy of students from around the state and the legislative leadership of State Representative Bobby Gibson and State Senator Doug McCrory. I thank Ingrid Canady, the SERC team, and all of our partners who contributed to and drove us to this historic moment.”

State representatives also chimed in on the exciting endeavor.

“I am extremely proud of the passage of this bill,” State Senator Douglas McCrory, co-chair of the education committee, said. “It was a humbling experience to hear students passionately call for the Black and Latino studies curriculum, and I thank them for it.”

“Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’ and I hope this new curriculum will facilitate a greater understanding and appreciation of the many contributions made by Black and Latino Americans,” he continued.

State Rep. Bobby Sanchez of New Britain, a staunch advocate for children, is embracing the new curriculum with open arms. 

“I am excited to see the implementation of this bipartisan legislation that will give students a more realistic view of their heritage and the many accomplishments of their ancestors,” Sanchez said. “This curriculum, which is a year-long study of Black and Latino history, will lead to better racial relations in our communities and a more inclusive state for our children and theirs. At public hearings last year, students explained how history classes didn’t reflect their heritage. Now, high schoolers will have that opportunity.”

In 2018, The Century Foundation published a report on the importance of diversity in schools’ curriculum. The report indicated that “only ten of the fifty suggested history readings in the new curriculum were produced by non-white writers. This set of ten is tasked with covering American writers of color as well as the voices from Black and brown people around the world."