Campaign for ethnic studies in San Diego schools is getting results

By Pablo J. Sáinz

San Diego Unified students rally for Ethnic Studies in the classroom. From left to right: Luis Chavez, Aimee Molina, Kevin Sarabia and Lissa Garcia
San Diego Unified students rally for Ethnic Studies in the classroom. From left to right: Luis Chavez, Aimee Molina, Kevin Sarabia and Lissa Garcia

The campaign to bring ethnic studies courses to San Diego high schools is one step closer to becoming a reality.

On the June 9th San Diego Unified School District governing board meeting, board members unanimously approved an updated resolution supporting ethnic studies in the district.

“Whereas, given San Diego Unified’s annual increase in diversity, it is important that students build knowledge of the various racial and ethnic groups in the nation,” reads the updated resolution passed by the board.

“Be it further resolved, regardless of the outcome of the Alejo Bill AB101, the work to establish and implement Ethnic Studies in San Diego Unified School District will continue,” goes on the resolution, referring to the bill at the State Assembly that will require all school districts in California to offer Ethnic Studies curriculum as a high school elective.

The resolution also gives further details of the mission of the Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee, which will explore ways in which ethnic studies can be implemented throughout the school district, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

In March, the SDUSD governing board passed an original resolution supporting AB101 “to promote understanding and acceptance of all cultures.”

For members of the Ethnic Studies Now Campaign—San Diego, this is a step forward towards its goal of making Ethnic Studies courses mandatory for high school graduation in San Diego City Schools.

“Although not a complete victory, [this is] a great first step towards our ultimate goal and even more,” said Guillermo Gomez, a member of the campaign and a Spanish teacher at Lincoln High School. “We have a lot of work ahead, but I think we are on the right track.”

Wearing red, campaign members held a rally before the board meeting.

Once inside, educators and community members spoke in favor of ethnic studies courses in San Diego high schools.

“I’m here to applaud you for making ethnic studies a priority,” said Dr. Alberto Ochoa, an education professor at San Diego State University.

San Diego Education Association President Lindsay Burningham also showed support for ethnic studies.

“We have many educators excited of teaching these courses,” Burningham said.

At the moment, only one high school in the whole school district offers an Ethnic Studies class, more specifically a Chicano Studies course.

“We want students to be exposed to the history and cultures of groups other than European,” said Gomez during a recent campaign meeting. “This will not only benefit brown, black, Asian students, but White, too, by learning about other cultures.”

The Ethnic Studies Now Campaign—San Diego demands that all freshmen in San Diego City Schools take a year-long course in Ethnic Studies in order to graduate from high school.

Campaign organizers said that they’re taking their message to the community, presenting their message to parents, students, and the general public.

The Ethnic Studies Now Campaign—San Diego is part of a statewide campaign that has already helped make Ethnic Studies courses mandatory in school districts throughout the state, including Los Angeles. San Francisco also expanded its Ethnic Studies programs.

Campaign members are currently circulating a petition that will gather signatures from supporters to present to the SDUSD governing board.

Organizers, which include many Latino educators, said that they will seek the support of leaders in the African-American, Asian-American, and Native American communities, to strengthen the petition.The petition is online at

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