Addressing Concerns: Ethnic Studies Curriculum Update

Dear community members,  

As you may be aware, this past week, the Orange County-based Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) approved two new ethnic studies courses for high school students to commence in the fall of 2023. These courses contain misinformation and are a direct assault on the Jewish community.

The courses, “Ethnic Studies: World Geography” and “Ethnic Studies World Histories” purport to carry forward the implementation of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that was adopted by the California State Board of Education in 2021. We believe the approved SAUSD curriculum violates California’s Assembly Bill 101, signed into law in 2021, which prohibits districts from passing curriculum that would “reflect or promote, directly or indirectly, any bias, bigotry, or discrimination against any person or group of persons on the basis of any category protected” by California anti-discrimination statutes. This Bill was adopted, in part, because in 2019, our community voice was heard as we demanded the removal of antisemitic and anti-Israel content from the draft curriculum. Over 3,000 concerned California residents petitioned the Governor to veto the original, misguided bill, which he did.

Unfortunately, our concerns about misapplication of an Ethnic Studies program appear to have surfaced in our own backyard in Santa Ana. The courses approved by SAUSD appear to be inconsistent with Assembly Bill 101. Source material for the courses includes antisemitic and anti-Israel misrepresentations – from ethnic cleansing to framing Jews as colonizers in our ancestral home to the exclusion of the history of Jewish refugees from Arab states – that are defamatory toward Judaism and the Jewish people.

We are fortunate that SAUSD has been responsive to our request to meet, and we are grateful Superintendent Almendarez and members of his curriculum team are open to hearing our concerns. We are hopeful that they will understand deployment of this curriculum has the potential to stigmatize and promote a classroom climate that is dangerous for students and the broader community.  The Rose Council and leadership of Jewish Federation of Orange County are developing strategy and coordinating efforts with our local Jewish community partners. We are grateful for their support and willingness to lend their expertise as we work towards an effective resolution.

I look forward to updating you after my meeting with SAUSD.  

Shabbat shalom,  

Erik Ludwig,

PhD President & CEO Jewish Federation of Orange County