Ethnic Studies & The Bellingham Promise: A Community Forum

Presented by Dr. Verónica Nelly Vélez and Dr. Longoria


Bellingham Public Schools recently updated district policy to include equity, diversity, and inclusion as key strategies of the Bellingham Promise. This new policy commits the district to confronting the institutional bias that perpetuates predictable student outcomes by, but not limited to, race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, language and culture.  BPS is considering a proposal to teach Ethnic Studies next year.  Offering ethnic studies could increase student engagement in school and improve academic outcomes. The National Education Association has found “there is considerable research evidence that well-designed and well-taught ethnic studies curricula have positive academic and social outcomes for students” (Sleeter 2011).  So, what is Ethnic Studies?  Who is it for?  How does it support the Bellingham Promise?  Why now?  These are some of the questions this session will explore.

Background: Washington State’s Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI) has created an Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee to support the implementation of SB 5023, approved by the Legislature in 2019. The Committee is charged with identifying and making available ethnic studies materials and resources for use in grades seven through twelve. The Legislature states in RCW 28A.150.210 that, “[b]asic education is an evolving program of instruction that is intended to provide students with the opportunity to become responsible and respectful global citizens.” The Legislature also intends to encourage public schools with students in grades seven through twelve to offer an ethnic studies course that incorporates the materials and resources.  Toward that end, several school districts throughout the state are proposing ethnic studies courses for middle and high school students.


About the Presenters

Dr. Verónica (Vero) Nelly Vélez is associate professor and founding director of the Education and Social Justice (ESJ) Minor and Program at Western Washington University. Vero’s research broadly analyzes racial inequities in education, the causes of those inequities, and how they impact the educational trajectories of Students of Color. In addition to her scholarly pursuits, Vero worked as a grassroots organizer for over 15 years with Latinx migrant mothers calling for educational reform.

She | Her

Dr. Longoria is assistant professor of Secondary Education at Western Washington University (WWU), affiliate faculty for the Education and Social Justice Minor, and lead advisor for the Future Woodring Scholars Program. Their research broadly explores the concepts of identity, migration, and home at the intersections of teacher education, multicultural education, Queer issues in education, and Latinx studies in education. Longoria was a former high school teacher in Seattle.

They | Them | Longoria


Primary Audience: Adults-community, educators, human rights/social justice professionals