Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he's hopeful the new act "will help combat false stereotypes" about the Asian American community amid "the recent rise in acts of violence"

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signing the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act into law
| Credit: Office of Governor J.B. Pritzker

Illinois is taking a big step to ensure its students learn about the "rich contributions and traditions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community."

On Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker signed HB 376, the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act, into law, requiring Asian American history to be taught in public schools, according to a press release from the state.

With the new legislation, Illinois becomes the first state in the U.S. to require teachings about the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in public classrooms.

"Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to creating more inclusive school environments," Pritzker said in a statement. "We're making Illinois the first state in the nation to require that Asian American history will be taught in public schools, including a unit about the Asian American experience."

"We are setting a new standard for what it means to truly reckon with our history," Pritzker added. "It's a new standard that helps us understand one another, and, ultimately, to move ourselves closer to the nation of our ideals."

According to the state's press release, the act will be added Illinois School Code and goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. It will be enforced at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year for every public elementary school and high school.

Instruction must cover the "rich contributions and traditions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community," as well as the history of Asian Americans particularly in Illinois and the Midwest, the press release stated.

However, the state will not mandate a specific curriculum for school districts or a minimal amount of instructional time, per the release.

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The new act comes after a rise in hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities were reported across the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

report released by Stop AAPI Hate revealed that there were at least 6,603 hate incidents targeting the AAPI community from March 19, 2020, to March 31, 2021. More than 2,400 of those incidences occurred in 2021.

Per Illinois' press release, state officials hope the new legislation will "help combat false stereotypes" after the "recent rise in acts of violence and bigotry against the Asian American community."

The law is Pritzker's latest measure to create "more inclusive school environments and curriculums," according to the release.

He previously signed a bill requiring Illinois schools to include the contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals in history lessons, created the Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force to encourage inclusivity and prevent discrimination, and expanded Black history education requirements.