HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut has become the first in the nation to require all high schools in the state to offer courses on African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies, according to the Office of Governor Ned Lamont.

The high schools will have the option to offer the course in the 2021-2022 school year but will be required to offer it starting in fall 2022.

Last year, Governor Lamont signed the requirement, Public Act 19-12, into law. And last week, the Connecticut State Board of Education unanimously approved the curriculum for the course.

The curriculum will provide high school students a better understanding of the African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino contributions to United States history, society, economy and culture using an inquiry-based approach. The approach includes both content knowledge and student identity development.

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

Students at New London’s C.B. Jennings Dual Language Elementary school learn about different cultures early on and many in that school system and in Norwich may be applauding that new legislation requiring all high schools to offer courses in African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies.

“It’s great to see…a standard practice as opposed to relying on teachers’ enthusiasm and passion for exposing children to Black and Latino studies,” said Tamara Gloster, Norwich Assistant Superintendent of Schools. 

Norwich is a K through 8 school system and will now be enhancing its curriculum to prepare students for the new high school studies and give them guaranteed experiences now such as in the area of civil rights.

“We’re looking to encompass and expand upon that through studying Cesar Chavez and his leadership as it relates to civil rights and how that impacts on other countries,” said Gloster.

“For me, I recall taking in college a course on Latino studies and it just made me feel seen,” Dr. Cardona told News 8 back in September. “It made me feel seen.”

It also made him feel proud. A feeling Dr. Cardona hopes high school students will soon share. 

The new curriculum is two pronged. It focuses on content knowledge as well as student identity development. 

“What we want to do is provide that opportunity for all students to learn about the contributions of Latinos and African Americans in a way that they see that they do add to the fabric of our country,” said Dr. Cardona.

And he says that they are a part of American history.

More about Public Act 19-12 can be found online.