Posted on October 18, 2022

Students, Teachers Praise Black, Latino Studies Course in Mandate’s First Year

Alison Cross, Hartford Courant, October 14, 2022

Altimatou Kao’s passion for Black history and culture was never reflected in her school social studies lessons.

“It wasn’t ever important enough for schools to teach us about it in the classroom,” Kao, a 2022 graduate of the Bridge Academy in Bridgeport, said. “I always had to do the research myself if I wanted to learn about any historical Black figure that wasn’t MLK or Frederick Douglass.”

That changed Kao’s senior year when she found herself learning, for the first time, a history that she could connect with, as she sat in the Bridge Academy’s first African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies course.

“This class helped me get a new identity of self-love,” Kao said.

Kao and others praised the state’s newly mandated African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies curriculum at the Connecticut State Board of Education meeting in Meriden on Wednesday evening, saying that the course ignites engagement and empowers students.

This school year marks the first time that Connecticut districts were required to offer the course, which 54 high schools piloted during the 2021-2022 year. The full-year history elective covers African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino political movements, cultural contributions, struggles and more.

Connecticut State Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Irene Parisi and Ingrid Canady, executive director of the State Education Resource Center, said that some schools could not offer the course because not enough students signed up to take the class. All but about 10 of Connecticut’s school districts are running the course.

Parisi said that the CSDE is in the process of conducting an audit of the course to record, among other factors, the number of high schools offering the course, student participation and demographics, and whether districts are implementing the course as a graduation requirement.


Advocates for the course say that African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies should be a required course for all students. Others have considered revising social studies standards to reflect more racial, cultural and ethnic identities in the curriculum.

State board member Erik Clemons said that he hopes the course will not be presented as an elective but as part of the regular history course.

“My hope is that Black history, African American history, Latino history will be considered U.S. history,” Clemons said.

Maryam Wardak, the social studies supervisor for Capitol Region Education Council Magnet Schools, said that CREC made the African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies course a graduation requirement for all students.

“Representation matters, but not just only for our students of color. It’s also imperative for everybody else and all the other students that do not identify as students of color to also learn this history,” Wardak said.