Jefferson Union High School District proposes Ethnic Studies curriculum focused on systems of oppression, colonialism, and student activism


In response to a public records filed by Zachor Legal Institute, Parents Defending Education has received several documents and presentation slides regarding proposed Ethnic Studies curriculum to be integrated across Jefferson Union High School District in San Mateo County, California. The proposed Ethnic Studies curriculum seeks to “center the stories, experiences, and knowledge of people of color, challenge and dismantle racism and intersectional systems of oppression, and cultivate communities that are committed to wellness, liberation, and solidarity.”

The curriculum’s second unit focuses on “systems of oppression” with lessons on the “Four I’s of Oppression,” power and privilege, and colonialism. One example provided in lessons on colonialism focuses on “Palestinian dispossession of lands/identity/culture through Zionist settler colonialism.”

The proposed curriculum centers around a student “Community Action Research Project” that all students complete. Proposed examples of the project include “teach-ins, theater of the oppressed, artistic mediums, creating a large exhibit, writing to legislators, holding a protest, creating a social media campaign.”

Presentation slides regarding the proposed curriculum list the curriculum’s top two essential qualities as “anti-racist” and “decolonizing.” Presentations also indicate that three JUHSD schools have begun teaching pilot programs of the course, which has been designated for ninth grade students. According to the presentations, all 9th grade students at Oceana High School were signed up for Ethnic Studies in the 2022-2023 school year, and Westmoor High School and Jefferson High School both had optional sections of the class as well.

JUHSD hired Community Responsive Education Consulting Group to help develop the Ethnic Studies curriculum and train teachers. Invoices obtained by PDE indicate that JUHSD has paid Community Responsive Education Consulting Group at least $60,000 for their services.

A three-year outline for a scope of work between the district and consultant shows a budget proposal of $180,000.

The curriculum also includes a unit on “Social Movements and Solidarity” with links to lesson plans from the UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project focused on how the Black Panther Party shaped #BlackLivesMatter. The lesson plan includes a reflection assignment on violent excerpts from a Black Panther Party publication regarding the death of Denzil Dowell: “We said we’d run down and educate them about the fact that we’d have to start using guns to defend ourselves, because the racist pig cops were coming to our community and murdering our brothers and sisters.”

The lesson then details how the Movement for Black Lives (sponsored by #BlackLivesMatter) drew much of its “Vision for Black Lives” from the Black Panther Party’s demands. The lesson plan also suggests assignments and activities for students including an icebreaker asking students to stand if they’ve ever been mistreated by a police officer and a written assignment reflecting on personal experiences with state violence and Black Lives Matter before drafting a social media post.