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Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law on Jan. 18, 2022. Photo: Ray Chavez/Getty Images

AAPI history is now part of New Jersey public school curriculum

The state follows Illinois in mandating instruction on the topic, and a bill was signed by Governor Phil Murphy on Jan. 18.

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New Jersey now requires Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history as part of its public school curriculum, making it the second state in the nation to do so.

Illinois passed the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act in July 2021.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law on Tuesday, Jan. 18, mandating school districts to teach students in grades K-12 starting in the 2022-2023 school year about the many contributions of AAPIs. 

“By teaching students about the history and heritage of our AAPI community, we can ensure that the diversity of our state is reflected in our curriculum and create a more tolerant and knowledgeable future for New Jersey. I am proud to sign these bills into law,” Murphy said in a statement

Last year, Murphy established an Asian American Pacific Islander Commission within the N.J. Department of State, tasked with  policies to target specific needs of the communities. 

Kani Ilangovan, the founder of Make Us Visible NJ, an advocacy group that’s been pushing the state to adopt a K-12 curriculum that’s more inclusive of AAPIs, told NBC News she is thankful the bill is signed because it shows that the voices of the communities matter in education. 

“It feels like we are fulfilling our slogan, making ourselves visible. My hope is that people come to learn the history that I only learned in the past year of all the different ways Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed to the building of this country,” Ilangovan said. 

A Stop AAPI Hate report released in November revealed that one in three AAPI parents say their child experienced a hate incident in school in the past year. 

Two South Asian-American lawmakers, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and state Sen. Vin Gopal, sponsored the bill. In a statement, Mukherji noted that the law may help fight the hateful rhetoric and violence targeting Asian-Americans. 

“Asian-Americans have been battling two pandemics — COVID-19 and hate. Like all forms of hate, it usually comes from ignorance,” he said, adding that the law will serve to eradicate the type of ignorance that leads to bullying and youth suicides. 

The law is the latest effort in a nationwide movement to include AAPI history in public school lessons. 

Last April, more than 2,500 New York City residents penned a letter to former Mayor Bill de Blasio, demanding AAPI inclusion in public school curriculums. The demand for change has also sparked legislative efforts in Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin. 

Earlier this month, the executive director and president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, John C. Yang, said that the push for AAPI history is an outgrowth of racial reckoning in the U.S.

“We need to address all of this together, and Asian-Americans want to be part of this solution, standing in solidarity with the African-American community and other communities of color,” Yang told NBC News

“One of New Jersey’s best qualities is its diversity, which we should be highlighting in our schools. By expanding the K-12 curriculum to include lessons on the history and contributions of the AAPI community, we can help break down persisting negative stereotypes and show the over 140,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander students in our state that their stories and experiences matter,” said Assembly sponsors Raj Mukherji , Mila Jasey, Britnee Timberlake, and Sterley Stanley in a joint statement. 

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