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Monday, June 24, 2024

DeSantis signs AAPI history K-12 education bill into law

Initiative led by nonprofit Make Us Visible Florida

Asian American K-12 students will soon have the opportunity to learn about their history not only at home but also in their classrooms.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1537 into law May 9, requiring Asian American and Pacific Islander history in K-12 curriculum. The legislation’s enactment marks a milestone in a two-year-long battle to make AAPI history a mandatory part of Florida public school education led by Mimi Chan, director of Make Us Visible Florida, the state’s chapter of a nonprofit dedicated to integrating AAPI history into K-12 classrooms. 

“It took a lot of work and determination in order to get this passed,” Chan said. “Asian American history is American history.”

Florida is the first Republican-led state to pass legislation requiring AAPI instruction for primary and secondary school students. The bill includes education on World War II Japanese internment camps and the immigration, citizenship, civil rights, identity, culture and contributions to American society of the AAPI community as part of the impending curriculum.

However, the enactment of this bill comes amid The Florida Department of Education's controversial decision to reject a preliminary pilot version of the College Board's Advanced Placement African American Studies course the department felt violated Florida law in January. 

Chan, an activist and martial arts instructor from Orlando, felt compelled to spearhead the initiative to bring AAPI history to Florida’s public education system as she witnessed the drastic increase in Asian American hate crimes and discrimination after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I wanted to see what could be done to stop these attacks,” she said. “To be preventative, to ensure our community was safe.”

Chan encountered countless obstacles in getting her legislation signed into law. Her original bill, House Bill 287, passed in the House but died in the Senate. However, she was able to have her legislation's language added to HB 1537 and Senate Bill 1430

She also felt grateful to receive strong bipartisan support for AAPI instruction in a state plagued by ongoing legislative debates concerning education. 

“I'm very appreciative of the community coming together across the state for something so important, like the required instruction of AAPI history, but also that legislators were willing to listen,” she said.

Although the law goes into effect July 1, the Florida Department of Education and Florida School Boards Association will form the curriculum over the next few years. Make Us Visible Florida will continue monitoring the curriculum’s development, Chan said. 

“We are committed to working hand in hand with the Department of Education to ensure that this curriculum is well-rounded and accurately portrayed,” she said. 

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Amanda Friedman

Amanda Friedman is a senior journalism major and the Enterprise Editor at The Alligator. She previously wrote for the Avenue, Metro and University desks. When she isn't reporting, she loves watching coming-of-age films and listening to Ariana Grande. 

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