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New Mexico bill would mandate anti-racism school training

February 25, 2021 GMT
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FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, New Mexico Majority Floor Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, talks to fellow lawmakers before the start of the New Mexico legislative session in Santa Fe, N.M. The New Mexico Legislature is considering a bill that would support African-American education. The Black Education Act would allocate $200,000 to create an advisory council and educational liaison position within the Public Education Department. The bill is sponsored by Harold Pope Jr., New Mexico's first Black state Senator and fellow Democrat and Majority Floor Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)
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FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, New Mexico Majority Floor Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, talks to fellow lawmakers before the start of the New Mexico legislative session in Santa Fe, N.M. The New Mexico Legislature is considering a bill that would support African-American education. The Black Education Act would allocate $200,000 to create an advisory council and educational liaison position within the Public Education Department. The bill is sponsored by Harold Pope Jr., New Mexico's first Black state Senator and fellow Democrat and Majority Floor Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers are considering a bill that would mandate anti-racism training in public schools and the development of instructional materials about Black culture.

The Black Education Act pending Thursday before the House Appropriations and Finance Committee would allocate $200,000 to fund an educational liaison position within the Public Education Department. It also would create an advisory council about Black education.

That would complement existing advisory bodies for Native American and Hispanic education. About 2% of New Mexican students are Black while 10% are Native American and 60% are Hispanic.

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The proposal comes as Black New Mexico residents are increasingly represented in the legislative and executive branches.

The bill is sponsored by Harold Pope Jr., New Mexico’s first Black state Senator and fellow Democrat and Majority Floor Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton. Both are from Albuquerque.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has tapped a number of Black leaders from New Mexico and from out of state as cabinet secretaries, including Ryan Stewart at the helm of the Education Department.

Stapleton has advanced a separate bill that would limit discrimination against students and workers based on cultural hairstyles and religious head coverings.

A New Mexico version of the nationwide push to do so under what’s known as the Crown Act, the bill would protect expressions of identity such as dreadlocks, Afros, Native American braids, yarmulkes and hijabs.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.