CHERRY HILL, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) -- The Cherry Hill school board Tuesday is expected to approve an African-American studies course that high school students will have to pass to graduate. It’s believed to be the first such mandatory course in New Jersey.
The course is the result of activism by Black students in Cherry Hill, who say they don’t see themselves in the current curriculum.
"In our history class that we have now, there isn’t a lot taught about African-American history," Cherry Hill High School East senior Machayla Randall told KYW Newsradio. "It’s kind of just limited to the civil rights movement and slavery – and that’s usually only during Black History Month,” she said.
At a Juneteenth protest march last summer, Randall and other members of the African-American Culture Club proposed making African-American studies a required course.
"I think it’s really important that we make it mandatory, because every racial tension kind of stems from education – which is why we chose that main theme to kind of get us rolling," she said.
The district of 11,000 students is 57% white and 8% Black. Randall said requiring the course would help to create more sensitivity among students of all races.
"When they’re studying this different perspective, they’ll be able to really understand that what may not be offensive to them is actually offensive to someone else," she said.
The superintendent supports the idea, which would require hiring a full-time teacher at each of the district’s two high schools. Professors from Stockton University and the University of Pennsylvania would help the district write the curriculum.