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Houston Schools Lay Ground for State on Mexican-American Studies

Texas' largest school district makes the study of the contributions of Mexican Americans to the state an elective course counting toward graduation.

The state of Texas’ largest school district voted Thursday to include Mexican-American history and culture as a high school elective counting toward graduation, a week before the state Legislature considers a similar proposal.

The Houston School District Board of Education approved the elective unanimously and is petitioning the Texas Education Agency to adopt a Mexican-American studies course that focuses on the history and culture of Mexican-Americans in the state as part of the state curriculum, the district said in a statement.

“As a district with a diverse population, it is our obligation to provide students facts and stories that will help them understand that our country and our state’s history included people that look like them,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. Sixty-two percent of the district’s 211,552 children are Hispanic.

Houston-based activist and author Tony Diaz, also known as El Librotraficante, noted that a civil rights summit is being held next week at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he signed. LBJ taught at a segregated Mexican school in Cotulla, Texas, which helped shape his thinking on poverty and discrimination.

“We need to stamp out one of the last vestiges of discrimination. We need to implement Mexican American studies,” Diaz said.

The state's education board is scheduled to take testimony on including such a course in the state curriculum next Tuesday, when a march in support also is planned on Austin’s Cesar Chavez Street, named for the labor and farmworker organizer whose life is the subject of a movie now in theaters. The board is scheduled to vote on the issue Wednesday.