Governor McKee Signs Legislation Requiring Asian American History and Culture be Taught in Rhode Island Schools

Governor Dan McKee was joined today by Senator Sandra Cano and Representative Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, and community leaders to ceremonially sign legislation which requires all public elementary and secondary schools in Rhode Island to provide at least one unit of instruction on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander History and culture.

The ceremonial bill signing took place during the opening ceremonies of the Rhode Island Chinese Dragon Boat Races and Taiwan Day Festival in Pawtucket on Saturday morning.

The legislation (2022-S 2910A, 2022-H 7272A) requires every public elementary school and secondary school, beginning in the 2023-24 school year, to include in its curriculum a unit of instruction studying the events of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) history, including the history of AA and NHPIs in Rhode Island and the Northeast, as well as the contributions of AA and NHPIs toward advancing civil rights.

“Rhode Island’s strength is in its diversity, and this important legislation will do so much to highlight the rich history and heritage of the Asian American community and the positive impact they’ve had on our state and country,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I thank the bill sponsors and advocates who made sure that this bill passed this past session, and it is an honor to sign it at the annual Rhode Island Chinese Dragon Boat Races and Taiwan Day Festival, one of our state’s signature celebrations of Asian culture.”

“Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have been a vital part of Rhode Island’s history dating back to the 1800s and continuing through today, and our state is stronger for it,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “I am proud that every Rhode Island school will now teach our students about the many contributions of the AAPI community to our state and our nation. Let’s keep working to ensure that every Rhode Island student can learn about each vibrant culture that makes our state unique.”

“According to the 2020 Census, Rhode Island’s Asian American community has grown 28 percent over the last decade and in order to ensure that our society respects the dignity of all races and peoples, it is important that our children learn about the history and contributions made by the various different cultures within our state,” said Senator Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), bill sponsor. “This is true of our state’s growing Asian American population and this bill will teach our students about the rich culture and history of their Asian American friends and neighbors.”

“When talking to Asian American students about this bill, they told me they had never been assigned material to read by an Asian American author and that they had never learned about their history or culture in school. Combined with the rising bias against Asian Americans, there is a clear need to break this cycle of cultural misunderstandings and this legislation is a good first step in that direction, acknowledging and celebrating the instrumental role that Asian Americans have had in our state, country and culture,” said Representative Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung (R-Dist. 15, Cranston), bill sponsor.

“Pawtucket is a special place thanks to its diversity, and we are pleased to have held the bill signing for such an important initiative here in our city at the Rhode Island Chinese Dragon Boat Races and Taiwan Day Festival,” said Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien. “Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are an important part of our community, and we appreciate that Governor McKee and the General Assembly continue to support initiatives that will benefit our students and state as a whole.”

“We are so pleased to see this bill come to fruition. The AAPI community is so important to our country and especially here in Rhode Island. We have worked with our AAPI friends for over 20 years presenting their culture and the Dragon Boat sport to Rhode Island. Now with this legislation, we finally have a chance to educate about all the fascinating cultures that make Rhode Island home,” said Blackstone Valley Tourism Council President Robert Billington.



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