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A new Nevada law aims to ensure that schoolchildren learn the histories of groups too frequently left out of textbooks.
Assembly Bill 261 requires K-through-12 schools to teach the histories and contributions of frequently marginalized groups, such as immigrants, Native Americans, religious organizations, and the LGBTQ community.
Assemblywoman Natha Anderson, a primary sponsor of the legislation, said student activists at both ends of the state helped drive the debate.
They "would go to our school board meetings and say, why aren't we learning about this, why aren't we learning more about these items," she told State of Nevada. "They were talking about how important it was for us to talk about more than just the one point of view for history."
She said the new curriculum will become part of the classroom experience as districts purchase new textbooks and revise their subject matter standards.
Anderson said the ongoing national debate over critical race theory, which studies societal structure through a racial perspective, might have muddied the waters around her legislation.
"I think some people are looking at other states and putting that information into this bill, and it's not there," she said.
UNR Dean Donald Easton Brooks commended the state's efforts, saying the subjective nature of storytelling requires hearing from different perspectives.
"We are interconnected, we are intercultural," he said. "And with intercultural we have to understand that as history progresses it impacts people in different ways."
Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the legislation into law earlier this month after it was approved along party-line votes in both houses of the Legislature.
The move comes as other states consider restricting curriculum thought to be divisive.
Brooke Maylath is an advocate with Reno-based Transgender Allies Group, which pushes for transgender rights in the state.
“Whether it's a transgender person, a gay person, a black or brown person, or indigenous — there were enormous contributions that were made in our history that go back to these people that have been scrubbed from a lot of the curriculum that is presented. And AB261 helps change that,” said, Maylath, who pushed for the inclusiveness legislation.
Lance West is president and co-founder of Indigenous Educators Empowerment, an organization that advocates for Native and indigenous representation in our education system.
He says the intent to broaden what’s taught needs to be matched by an investment in learning materials:
“There’s very little curriculum out there that’s current that does speak to and discuss and have lessons of our three main tribal peoples — the Washoe, the Shoshone and the Paiutes. Our Great Basin Tribes are not reflected in literature.”
Natha Anderson, assemblywoman; Donald Easton Brooks, dean, UNR College of Education and Human Development; Alyssa Cortes, program associate, Silver State Equality