A local group is asking the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board to mandate an African American history course for high school students. Organizers with Hate Out of Winston gathered with a group of parents and community members before the school board meeting Tuesday night.
Members of the group are asking the school board to budget money for textbooks, teacher training and other resources to teach more African American history. Destiny Blackwell says they want the class to be mandatory for all high school students.
“I think that's important because if you omit the African American history, it is implicitly European history and that's skewed because of oppression, the historical oppression that we are aware of the black people in America. If it's not taught, it's forgotten,” says Blackwell.
The group is pushing for the class to be a requirement for graduation.
“There has been a lack of multi-cultural curriculum in the district for years. All the students should see a variety of diverse reflections in their textbooks and library books,” says Carolyn Highsmith, with the Coalition For Equity in Public Education, another group that supports the change.
Winston-Salem Forsyth County School spokesman Brent Campbell says African American history and literature classes are offered as electives, and that the district has infused it into the social studies curriculum throughout the year in all grades, as well. He adds that the district will continue to have conversations on the issue.
“Of course, what we do is follow the North Carolina standard course of study in making what is mandatory, mandatory. This group would like us to take that further and so there is conversation as to what that could look like, how that may look, [and] how we could beef up the courses that are already there,” says Campbell.
The district says it's also working on infusing more Hispanic history in the curriculum throughout the grade levels.
Another issue up for discussion at the meeting: the preliminary budget for the school system.
The district says it plans to ask county commissioners for an additional pot of money to help meet the critical needs. The $40.2 million would go to capital improvements, teacher supplements and to bring all employees to a living wage of a minimum $15 an hour.
Like many districts, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is anxiously waiting to see what the North Carolina General Assembly budget will earmark for public education.
The school system says a special finance meeting and special school board meeting will take place over the next week to iron out the preliminary budget details. The school board will present it to county commissioners on May 9th.
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