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Education Station: Northeast Ohio group backing bill to teach AAPI history in schools

ASIA gathering support for Senate Bill 214. The legislation would make Asian-American Pacific Islander history a part of Ohio's public school curriculum.

OHIO, USA — It’s a mission to add Asian American Pacific Islander history to Ohio's public school curriculum. A hearing on the proposed legislation was postponed last month, but the local AAPI community continues to raise awareness and gain support for Senate Bill 214.

In 2018, Tina Maharath became the first Asian American woman elected to the Ohio Senate. Now, the Lao-American politician is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 214, hoping to make Ohio the third state – after Illinois and New Jersey - to include Asian American history in its public school curriculum.

"I think that American history is incomplete without including the contribution of all of its members, and that includes Asian-American Pacific Islanders," says Elaine Tso, CEO of local Asian American Pacific Islander (or AAPI) group ASIA - an acronym for Asian Services in Action. 

ASIA planned to take a van-full of supporters to the Ohio Capitol last month for a hearing on SB 214, but the hearing was postponed for a fourth time.

"There is a history of treating any community that is different as either invisible or perpetually foreign," says Tso.

Hudson High School junior Kayli Rego was adopted from China by a White family when she was 13 months old. 

"Growing up, especially in middle school, I felt very isolated from my peers, because I’ve always grown up in a predominantly White community. I believe I would’ve had more confidence in myself, being Chinese and American if I learned more about my Asian history," says Rego.

Hawken School junior Rebecca Rodriguez says teaching Asian-American history in schools would cut down on AAPI stereotypes, hate crimes, and self-consciousness.

"I know a lot of people struggle with their identities – including me - because we were never taught Asian-American history in schools. I felt like I didn't fit in," says Rodriguez, who is Chinese, Mexican, and Italian.

More and more students who would be directly impacted by the legislation are calling and emailing the Senate their testimonies in support for SB 214.

"I wrote the Senate and I’m going to testify in person when the hearing is rescheduled," said Rego.

No reschedule date has been given on the SB 214 hearing. If the bill were to pass, AAPI history would be incorporated into the K through 12th grade Ohio public school curriculum beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

The effort comes amid a boom in the AAPI population nationwide. An 81% increase between 2000 and 2019 - from 10.5 million people to nearly 19 million. In a time of racial reckoning and resistance - with the controversial topic of critical race theory top of mind in the nation – supporters expect arguments against SB 214. The bill, they say, simply amounts to teaching a complete American history.

"Our ancestors’ stories deserve to be taught in schools, because without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today," says Rego.

"I think it would just be a great step forward in our nation," says Rodriguez.

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