Senator Liu introduces bill mandating inclusion of Asian American history in New York state public schools

Senator John Liu legislation
Senator John Liu (Courtesy of Liu’s office)

New York state Senator John Liu and Assembly member Grace Lee have introduced a bill calling for Asian American history to be included in the state’s public school curriculum.

The purpose of the bill is to help dispel prejudice and ignorance for the Asian American community, as anti-Asian hate has been on the rise across the state since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Integrating the Asian American experience into the public school curriculum would not only allow Asian American children the chance to finally see themselves reflected accurately in American history, but it is a critical step in dismantling the endless barrage of anti-Asian stereotypes that categorize Asian Americans as either the perpetual foreigners or the seemingly-benign but equally destructive model minority,” Liu said.

The bill has been introduced to both the state Senate and Assembly under the names S5963 and A6579, respectively. Its introduction comes in tandem with Representing and Empowering AANHPI History (REACH) Coalition, in order to make sure that New York State public schools are teaching Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander history (AANHPI).

“We are excited to see S5963/A6579 reintroduced in the New York State Legislature by Senator John Liu and Assembly member Grace Lee,” members of the REACH Coalition Steering Committee said in a joint statement.

REACH is a growing intersectional and statewide coalition with more than 170 students, parents, educators, community members and over 60 organizations that have come together to fight for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander history.

“This bill is essential to addressing the resurgence of anti-Asian violence, fostering identity development for all students and creating learning environments that prevent misunderstandings and stereotypes that can lead to bullying,” read the statement from members of the REACH coalition.

According to Liu and Lee, the fact that New York doesn’t currently have a mandate requiring the teaching of Asian American history has helped to create a vacuum in which harmful stereotypes about Asians are easily spread. This includes labeling them as “unassimilable foreigners” or “model minorities.”

“We must take action against the lack of recognition of Asian American communities in our education system that has contributed to a frightening increase in anti-Asian hate and violence,” Lee said. “Our voices and our stories deserve to be heard and recognized, and that starts at the grade school level, a curriculum from which Asian American history and culture have been excluded for too long.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian hate crimes have seen an increase of over 300% across the United States. Liu and Lee argue that if New York public schools are required to teach Asian American history, the harmful Asian stereotypes would no longer be allowed to grow and spread, helping to decrease the amount of hate towards Asian Americans.

“his legislation is an important step in dismantling the model minority myth and building solidarity with other historically marginalized communities,” said Coalition for Asian American Children and Families Education Policy Coordinator Kulsoom Tapal. “We know that inclusive and diverse curricula are vital for creating a safe and supportive environment for all students, regardless of background, and we look forward to continuing this work with our community partners and elected officials.”