NSC faculty, student create and introduce Ethnic Studies bill to Nevada legislature

Assistant Professor of English, Dr. Leila Pazargadi, and NSC student, Andreana Leonard, flew up to Reno on Thursday, March 12, to testify about a legislative bill they created which would require public high schools to provide of a course of instruction in ethnic studies. Dr. Pazargadi and Leonard co-wrote the bill, and are introducing it into legislation this year through Clark County Senator Tick Segerblom's office.

I am really excited about this bill and hopeful about the opportunity for the state of Nevada to stand with others in the fight against discrimination through educational practices that advocate for equality and social justice, Dr. Pazargadi said.

Senate Bill No. 211 (SB211) reads as follows:

Sec. 2: Chapter 389 of NRS is hereby amended by adding thereto a new section to read as follows:

The board of trustees of each school district and the governing body of each charter school that operates as a high school shall establish in each public high school within the school district of in the charter school, as applicable, a course of instruction in ethnic studies as a prerequisite for graduation. This course must include, without limitation, instruction concerning the culture, history and contributions of African Americans, Latino/a Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Basques, and other ethnic Americans deemed appropriate, with emphasis on human relations and sensitivity toward all.

If passed, SB211 will require that all high schools offer ethnic studies courses and that those courses become prerequisites for graduation from Nevada high schools. Dr. Pazargadi, is one of several from NSC who support this legislation. Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Nick Natividad, and Assistant Professor of Communication, Dr. Christopher Harris, are also members of a coalition created on behalf of Senator Segerblom's office to support SB211.

We have gotten support from faculty from UNR and UNLV, in addition to community support, but it started here at NSC, Dr. Pazargadi explained.

In Dr. Pazargadi's presentation at the legislature, Ethnic Studies is defined as the interdisciplinary study of the history, cultural impact, socioeconomic concerns, politics, and achievements of racialized peoples in the United States and elsewhere.

As a professor specializing in Persian literature, ethnic American literature and postcolonial studies at Nevada State College, I can assure you that the teaching of ethnic studies in high schools will create a foundational understanding and appreciation of what it means to be American in our diverse state, Dr. Pazargadi conveyed to the Senate's Education Committee. This instruction often mirrors historical contributions of national figures with personal experiences of our first generation and minority students.

Dr. Pazargadi says she was recently informed that the Senate Committee on Education unanimously supports the bill as long as the language is changed from prerequisite for graduation to elective offered at each institution. That is, each school must offer the course as an elective, but it is no longer required for graduation. Dr. Pazargadi and the coalition are establishing a curriculum committee to work with CCSD and other school districts to propose a curriculum (should the bill pass).

SB211 will be introduced onto the senate floor on April 21, 2015. If the bill passes there, then it will go to the State Assembly, and Dr. Pazargadi, along with co-writer, Leonard, will be returning to Carson City to defend SB211 in front of the Assembly.

To read Senate Bill No. 211 in its entirety, please visit: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/78th2015/Bills/SB/SB211.pdf

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