La Crosse School District backs bill that would require Hmong education

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- This week the School District of La Crosse Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to support a bill that would direct school boards across Wisconsin to teach Hmong history and culture.

They're a growing part of the Wisconsin population, but those of Hmong descent still feel undervalued and say their history is not well-known, if at all.

But state legislators could change that by directing school boards to teach the history of Hmong people through Assembly Bill 34.

"To not acknowledge their contributions, to not acknowledge who they are. To not appreciate a culture that's beautiful and also a language that's beautiful is just another way to disenfranchise and that's not the way a community should move forward, it's not a way our schools should move forward," said La Crosse School District Superintendent Randy Nelson.

This week, at the La Crosse School District Board of Education meeting, the board approved a resolution supporting the bill.

"I think it's just a huge validation that they do recognize us and that they do see that we are a part of this community and that we are important too," said Cia Siab Inc. Social Justice Director Maggie Xiong.

La Crosse has one of the largest concentration of Hmong people in Wisconsin, which has the third largest population of Hmong people in a state in the nation.

Xiong says teaching the history in schools would be beneficial for all students, especially those who are Hmong.

"A lot of them recognize that Hmong history isn't being taught or they aren't learning about themselves within the school district and it is puzzling to them and it makes them feel undermined and undervalued," said Xiong. "But when they do come here they feel like there is a place for them."

In the school district of La Crosse, Hmong history and culture is currently taught throughout four different grades.

"I still think there's more that we can do and we look forward to more opportunities to make sure that what we're doing in grades 2, 4, 7 and 10 can expand," said Nelson.

AB 34 was introduced back in Jan. 2017 and later failed to pass the state Assembly in March 2018.

Officials at the La Crosse School District are hopeful the bill will be re-introduced in the next legislative session.