California officials finally approved the inclusion of the ethnic studies model curriculum for its K-12 students last week after years of debate and discussions and thousands of comments from the public.

On Thursday, the California Board of Education approved the nearly 900-page curriculum after hours of public comments. Authorities have been working on the proposal for nearly four years before approving the fourth draft.

Ethnic Studies

Many believe that while the curriculum is voluntary, it helps teach young children how to accept and interact with people different from them. The proposal has gathered particularly greater support following last week’s attack where many Asian Americans in Georgia were victimized.

“We cannot endure the horrific acts of the past against people of color that unfortunately still continue today as we saw this week in Georgia. But what we do have to do is take steps to start preventing these horrific acts. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said racism is a sickness, and we have to become the healers. There is no other place that has the greatest responsibility than our educational system. So we have to support this and have ethnic studies,” co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association Dolores Huerta said during the meeting.

The curriculum covers the entire state and is the first of its kind in the United States, said authorities. It also focuses on four ethnic groups, African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Latino Americans, and Native Americans. It also included Jewish Americans and Arab Americans’ experiences and histories.

“By affirming the identities and contributions of marginalized groups in our society, ethnic studies helps students see themselves and each other as part of the narrative of the United States. Importantly, this helps students see themselves as active agents in the interethnic bridge-building process we call American life,” a draft of the curriculum reads.

While the Board of Education approved the curriculum for use in schools, districts can opt to not include it as it is not yet a statewide requirement. California State Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill last September which would have required schools to include ethnic studies in their requirements for graduation.

However, earlier this year, Newsom made ethnic studies mandatory for students studying in the California State University system. More and more K-12 curriculums across the United States have incorporated aspects of ethnic studies into their teachings, CNN reported.

Connecticut officials announced last year they will be requiring high schools to provide African-American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies. It became the first state in the United States to support the initiative. The San Francisco school board also approved the development of a K-12 curriculum in Black Studies last year.