'It’s time to really step it up': Parents ask for Juneteenth to be included in school curriculum

Posted at 10:57 PM, Jun 17, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Juneteenth holiday is far from new. It’s been celebrated by African Americans in the country for years.

“I actually didn’t learn about that until I was an adult, just in general conversation speaking with other people,” said Erica Parham.

Parham is a product of the Hampton school division.

“I wasn’t taught that in school at all,” she adds.

She wants to see change. Her boys, Jaxon and Sebastian, go to Kempsville Elementary School in Virginia Beach.

“They knew about 4th of July in daycare,” but they were never taught about the day in 1865 when African American slaves found out they were free.

"I do believe that large parts of the Virginia Department of Education curriculum are inadequate to really tell the story of slavery and racism in Virginia,” said Brian Teucke.

He’s an 8th grade civics teacher at Page Middle School and also the president of the Gloucester Education Association.

"There are huge gaps in our curriculum that need to be addressed, and [they] can be by enhancing the curriculum,” he adds.

The Department of Education says new history textbooks and curriculum must correspond with the Standards of Learning, and revising the SOLs takes about two years - meaning it will take some time before Juneteenth makes it inside textbooks.

The department encourages teachers to use online resources in the classroom.

Teucke says he’s already doing that and is challenging other teachers to do the same.

"Educators are going to play a unique role in making sure that we are doing a better job at fighting racism through education,” he adds.

He says history teachers are not the only ones who play a role.

Related: Gov. Northam to propose legislation making Juneteenth a state holiday

“It can be incorporated into all subjects, including English language arts.”

For parents who want to get a head start on teaching their kids about Juneteenth, the local library is a good resource.

They have books for children about the holiday to help children learn more about their history.

A spokeperson with the department of education also says, "Publishers are invited to submit textbooks for review by the department and recommendation to the state board for adoption based on alignment to the revised standards and curriculum framework."

For more information on Virginia's textbook review process, click here.