Earlier this year (February 1, 2022), the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) took progressive steps to support Native students in the state.
Although some see the new resolution that was passed as “just another checked box,” it still points toward more acceptance and inclusion amongst Native Americans and other minority groups in Wisconsin school districts.
A Push To Include Native History
Initially, the WASB attempted to pass a resolution supporting Native American communities in January 2020. In this resolution, there was a push to remove all Native American signs, symbols, and school mascots in the state’s public and private schools.
However, this resolution failed by a considerably high margin. The schools that incorporated Native signs and mascots were against the resolution, citing “local control” as the reason why.
Last year, the WASB modified its initial resolution to instead focus on teaching Native history and culture in elementary and secondary schools. Although the Wisconsin Department of Education is already required to develop this curriculum, there was never any enforcement or funding provided.
Therefore, the new resolution aspires to offer more support and supplies to adequately teach Native American culture and history in classrooms across the state.
Fortunately, this resolution passed by a wide margin, which Native and other minority groups see as a huge step in the right direction.
Ties Between Native And AAPI Students
The WASB resolution from the previous year was altered again to offer more support for both Native American and AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) education in schools. According to Leng Xiong, there’s a dire need for education about Native and AAPI culture and history in Wisconsin schools.
Currently, Xiong is a D.C. Everest school board member and executive director of the Hmong American Center in Wausau and has been fighting for inclusion in Wisconsin school districts his entire adult life.
And, after noticing “a lot of similarities and parallels between Hmong and Native Americans,” he understands the urgency for this new resolution. For both minority groups, Xiong says there’s discrimination and a general misunderstanding about their cultural beliefs and practices.
Therefore, he sees this resolution as a significant first step forward even though the WASB members don’t actually have to do anything. “This will not be the end of the story; just the beginning of a new chapter,” Xiong notes.
An Essential Step Forward
One potential influence this new resolution can have for Native students is an inspiration to pursue higher education.
That said, the WASB hopes that by inserting Native culture and history into the curriculum, Native students will feel more included and motivated to continue their education. Higher education is critical for members of the Native community for several reasons.
One of the primary reasons is that it lowers the chance of poverty, which is already at a higher rate for Natives compared to other minority groups. In the same sense, Native students who attend schooling beyond high school are more likely to get a job.
Overall, the WASB’s new 2022 resolution has the potential to dramatically shift the ways Natives approach and invest in the education system.