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Paso Robles School District board condemns racism, plans to add ethnic studies course

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Paso Robles Joint Unified School District meeting on March 23

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board of trustees moved forward with resolutions related to diversity and anti-racism at their March 23 meeting.

Paso Robles School Board Trustees approved the outline for a high school course called Multicultural America. After lengthy discussion at the meeting and strong support from students and community members, the board voted six-to-one to move ahead, contingent upon revisions.

Per the course description, the primary purpose of the ethnic studies course is to educate students to be politically, socially and economically conscious about their personal and cultural connections to local and national history.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Erin Haley said “It’s an elective option, so only students who choose to take it as their elective would be enrolled in the course.”

Social Studies teacher Geoffrey Land has taught at Paso Robles High School since 1998. He helped design the course and will ultimately teach it, if approved.

“I believe this course is an opportunity for our school and our community to move forward towards a Paso Robles that celebrates diversity and welcomes difficult and timely conversations,” Land said.

The Board requested additions to the course reading list related to concerns for more balanced content. All revisions will be presented for further approval at the next meeting, scheduled for April 13.

The plan is to offer the elective course in fall 2021 to students in ninth through 12th grades. A minimum of 20 students will need to sign-up for the course to keep it on the schedule.

Though Paso Robles designed its own course, the California Department of Education voted March 18 on guidance for schools developing ethnic studies coursework. California is the first state in the nation to offer a statewide ethnic studies model for educators.

Another resolution the Paso Robles board passed is a statement condemning racism. Board President Christopher Arend read the resolution aloud, and said the statement is needed to make clear that racism will not be tolerated in the district. The resolution is included in the agenda items for March 23 and can be found online on the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District website.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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