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Wisconsin lawmakers take another step to require Asian-American history in schools

Senate Bill 240 passed unanimously Tuesday in the Wisconsin Senate. Indigenous, Black and Latino history are already required in schools
Green Bay Area Public School District
Posted at 7:41 PM, Mar 12, 2024

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — Wisconsin lawmakers took another step Tuesday to require Asian-American history in schools, passing Senate Bill 240.

  • The bill amends a current statute requiring Indigenous, Black and Latino history in schools
  • Bills similar to SB240 failed to reach the Senate floor. The governor must now approve it
  • State Rep. Francesca Hong explains the impact of the bill for students and importance of learning Hmong history

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

"It was definitely different, not learning where my culture came from," Christina Thor, Executive Director of the 9to5 National Association of Working Women Wisconsin chapter, said.

Thor is a Hmong-American and describes feelings of being unseen in school growing up.

"I was in between two worlds: I was Americanized and I was Hmong," Thor said. I had to learn two languages at once so when you go to school looking different than everyone else and not knowing your identity and trying to learn this Western identity, it's so difficult. "

Thor said a lot of that had to do with Asian-American history not being part of required learning.

A Wisconsin statute already requires that Indigenous, Black and Latino heritage must be included in school curriculum.

Senate Bill 240 (SB240) looks to add Asian American history to that list — a push that for decades had been dismissed at the state level.

"We know that Asian American history is American history and this curriculum is going to really enhance not just studies for Asian Americans but for all students," said State Representative Francesca Hong, 76th Assembly District, the state's first Asian American legislator.

"I have such pride in being a Wisconsinite, and I think it allows the rest of the state to see that Wisconsinites come from all different identities," Hong said. "To highlight the Asian American experience is truly an honor."

Both Rep. Hong and Thor believe the new bill will allow students to learn more about Hmong people.

38% of Asians in Wisconsin are Hmong, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

In Green Bay, some parents have said they'd like to see more awareness in schools.

"Currently, from our AAPI Against Bullying students survey, 34.9% [of students] feels unsafe at your schools," Mary Yang, a leader of Asian Allies United, said. "No student should feel unsafe."

David Johns, Associate superintendent of Green Bay Area Public Schools, said the district still has gaps to fill for inclusive learning.

"One of the things that we learned and know is that the more the student sees themselves in the classroom and feels a real presence and part of a school community, the more likely, all of the other factors come together to set that student up for success academically," Johns said.

"Because if we're not listening to one another, if we're not listening to the kids, someone else is going to make the decisions for us," Thor said. "We need to do that ourselves and make change happen."

Now that the bill has passed through the senate, both Rep. Hong and Thor said they are confident the bill making the official move into law.