Bill would require African American history for teachers

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont legislator has introduced a bill that would require a three-credit college course in African American history to be licensed as a teacher.

Rep. Maida Townsend, D-South Burlington, introduced the bill last week and hopes that it will, at a minimum, lead to a dialogue, the Rutland Herald reported.

Townsend said that racial issues can occur in any classroom and that it is important for educators to understand the history of race in America to handle those occurrences.

“We are very much aware that implicit bias and outright racism are entrenched in our culture and need to be addressed,” she said. “Teachers are often asked to deal with one thing after another after another. ... This matter of racism, implicit or overt, is very much a part of our day.”

Townsend, a retired teacher and former president of the Vermont-National Education Association, said the bill has been introduced in the House periodically since 2009.

Don Tinney, the president of the Vermont-National Education Association, said that the statewide teachers union has been focused on racial justice for years and would welcome the bill.

“We absolutely believe we need to make sure educators are prepared in this area, and I think this is one more step in that direction," he said. “It’s work that our educators are willing to take on.”

Mia Schultz, president of the Rutland branch of the NAACP, said she welcomes the bill but noted that if African American history is taught correctly, it would be a part of American history. Schultz added that the historical experiences of other groups need to be apart of the discussion as well.