CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Stopping prejudice before it has a chance to take hold in young minds is what Cherry Hill Public Schools is trying to do. They are proposing making the study of African American history a required course.
“Most of the juniors and seniors marched,” student Baisia Hyatt said.
An upcoming sophomore at Cherry Hill West High School Baisia Hyatt says she felt a sense of pride when she saw upperclassmen from her school and from Cherry Hill East marching from Whole Foods to the Cherry Hill Library last month, one of the many marches following the death of George Floyd to honor all the lives lost to police brutality.
But, also to push for more African American education in schools.
“I feel like we should learn about it, possibly the whole year and we should get to know about our history and culture,” Hyatt added.
“When they do share their ideas and perspective, we need to prepare to act on them,” stated Cherry Hill Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche.
Dr. Meloche marched with the students and he says he listened.
Dr. Meloche made a formal introduction at a board meeting this month on making the district the first in New Jersey to mandate students take an African American history course in order to graduate.
One option – expanding on an elective course that’s already offered.
“It’s a well established class. We have great curriculum for it and a great program, so we’re talking about whether we use that class, whether we expand it,” Dr. Meloched explained.
Dr. Meloche says they are also looking at all of their curriculum through a social justice lense and how they can improve on the names, text and experiences they use to teach.
Some feel it’s a must.
“It’s got to be a culture class of everybody contributed that makes the United States great,” Alan Fisher said.
Dr. Meloche says this is not to take away history from other groups and he expects some pushback, but is not concerned.
“Even in 2020, hundreds of years later, there are still residual effects and as a society, we need to be honest about that,” Dr. Meloche added.
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