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Introduction of K-12 Ethnic Studies Program Faces Opposition in Los Alamitos

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Orange County school districts are experiencing backlash from parents and community members after introducing a new statewide ethnic studies curriculum in K-12 schools.

The Los Alamitos Unified School District (Los Al USD) Board of Education unanimously approved a new ethnic studies elective titled “Cultural Experiences in America” for junior and senior students at Los Alamitos High School on February 23.

While the curriculum is optional for students and not required for graduation, the board has faced backlash from opponents who believe that the curriculum may cause divisiveness and anti-white sentiment among younger generations.

“These courses are filled with hate for America and all America stands for,” a group opposing the curriculum wrote in a letter to the Los Alamitos community.

The group, which identifies itself as consisting of “concerned parents, grandparents and community members,” said in the letter that the curriculum “teaches children that America is based on white supremacy and that white people are racists, even if they don’t know it.”

Opponents have frequented Los Al USD Board meetings to voice their opinions on the ethnic studies curriculum. Some have even traveled from other districts to the meetings to express their discontent.

“You want to teach our young children to hate their classmates and to hate themselves, that white kids are oppressors and should be apologizing for their skin color and Blacks are minorities or victims,” a tutor said at a Los Al USD Board meeting on April 13.

The adoption of the elective class preceded the California Board of Education’s approval of an ethnic studies model curriculum for K-12 schools on March 18, after four years of revisions. The inclusion of the curriculum is not mandated by the state, but rather decided upon by each individual school district. 

“By affirming the identities and contributions of marginalized groups in our society, ethnic studies helps students see themselves and each other as part of the narrative of the United States,” the California Department of Education said in a state-approved draft of the curriculum. “Importantly, this helps students see themselves as active agents in the interethnic bridge-building process we call American life.”

Some districts such as the Los Angeles Unified School District will mandate ethnic studies as a graduation requirement by 2023, while the Fresno Unified School District plans to require the curriculum as early as the next school year.

Within the Los Alamitos community, ethnic studies textbooks and supplemental materials are now at the stage of previewing for 30 days. The course materials are accessible both online and at the district office.

The course will face a final vote from the Los Al USD Board on June 1. If approved, ethnic studies will be incorporated into the district’s high school curriculum for the 2021-2022 school year.


Ellie Zhang is a City News Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at yitangz@uci.edu.