Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program

The Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program (WCLPEP) was created in 2000 to continue projects launched by the federal Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF) and to support newer initiatives that focused on the Pacific Northwest Nikkei wartime incarceration experience. During its nine years in operation, WCLPEP produced thirty-five educational projects—the majority of which were specifically targeted for use in K-12 classrooms—by awarding close to $1.3 million in competitive grants.

Starting the Program

When he originally envisioned the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, CLPEF Executive Director Dale Shimasaki hoped it would serve as a model for other states to emulate. He was particularly hopeful that such initiatives might be launched in states that received CLPEF grants—notably Washington, New York, Colorado, and Hawaii—in order to finance the continuation of CLPEF projects in those locations. [1] Of those states, only Washington produced such a program. Shortly after the conclusion of the CLPEF in 1998, Representative Kip Tokuda introduced Bill 1572 with support from the House Committee on Education (which included Republican Representative Mike Wensman of Mercer Island and Democrat Sharon Tomiko Santos of Seattle, among others). It passed the Washington House in a unanimous vote in February 2000, passed the Senate by a forty-three to one margin the following month, and signed into law by Governor Gary Locke. [2]

This legislation contended that the state of Washington must develop "strong educational resources aimed at teaching students and the public about the fragile nature of our Constitutional rights." [3] By authorizing a competitive grant program designed to "develop and distribute educational materials, videos, plays, speakers' bureaus, and exhibitions," the bill aimed to address the fact that "existing curriculum and resource materials about this period in our history are dated." Moreover, since "many Washingtonians who experienced the camps are elderly," the act recognized the urgent need to record their stories "for the education of new generations." [4] Aware that the program must produce "instructional resources that teachers will want to use," legislators entrusted WCLPEP to Washington's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the state education agency. [5]

In mid-2000, OSPI announced that WCLPEP grants would fund educational resources geared towards K-12 and post-secondary students, as well as Washington State citizens more broadly. Strongly encouraged to develop projects that involved gathering oral histories from former detainees or inviting incarceration survivors to participate as guest speakers, applicants were also required to demonstrate how their project would meet Washington's curricular standards for public schools, known as Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs). WCLPEP grant criteria also obliged applicants to incorporate an OSPI-approved Classroom Based Assessment (CBA), an alternative to standardized testing employed in Washington to measure students' grasp of the EALRs, as the culminating activity. [6] The K-12 focus attracted applicants representing schools and universities, but the program encouraged community organizations, museums, writers, artists, researchers, and government institutions to apply as well.

WCLPEP Projects

WCLPEP produced a variety of educational resources during its nine years in operation. The Omoide project, for example, presented a series of reflective essays written by Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest collected by Delores "Dee" Goto since 1991. WCLPEP helped finance presentations by Omoide storytellers, who have met with over 6,000 students and 250 teachers across Washington since the project's launch. [7] WCLPEP also subsidized video projects and theatrical performances. WCLPEP funded the distribution of 570 copies of Emiko Omori's award-winning film, Rabbit in the Moon (1999)—which documented her family's experience in the Poston (Arizona) camp, as well as inter-generational conflicts and differences in opinion concerning the Heart Mountain draft resisters—to high schools throughout Washington. Frank Abe updated the secondary-level curriculum guide for his film, Conscience and the Constitution (2001), in order to align it with Washington's EALRs; WCLPEP funded distribution of 100 copies of the film to secondary school libraries and media centers, and gave money to distribute an additional 1,000 copies to media specialists in public libraries across the state. [8]

WCLPEP allowed several projects initiated under CLPEF to continue as well. In 1997, CLPEF provided $20,000 for an oral history project to be conducted by a new educational organization, Densho, headed by Tom Ikeda and based in Seattle. With subsequent support from sources like WCLPEP, Densho captured thousands of stories of those who lived through WWII incarceration, developed curricular resources and coordinated teacher training activities, launched an online encyclopedia, and digitized an extensive catalog of photographs and primary documents. WCLPEP also enabled Tacoma Community College, which originally developed its Japanese American history course with support from CLPEF, to offer teacher training sessions for forty-five instructors whose college courses focused on Washington state history. [9] Furthermore, Wing Luke Museum in Seattle expanded its educational programs, which included Day of Remembrance events and teacher training sessions at high schools throughout Washington. [10] In conjunction with the Washington State Association for Multicultural Education, Wing Luke offered the WCLPEP-supported "Japanese American Cultural Education" project, a series of teacher training sessions held at each of the state's eight Educational Service Districts (regional OSPI offices). [11]

In 2003, the Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School on Bainbridge Island received a $17,000 WCLPEP grant to develop an innovative curriculum for sixth graders that focused on the island's unique history regarding WWII removal and incarceration. At a 2004 school board meeting, however, a small group of local parents expressed concern that the Leaving Our Island (LOI) curriculum failed to address the argument that military necessity justified WWII incarceration, and made uncritical links between the treatment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor and racial profiling of Arab Americans in the wake of 9/11. The debate attracted national attention from news sources such as National Public Radio, The New York Times , Los Angeles Times , and Seattle Post-Intelligencer . Although many Bainbridge residents supported the district's refusal to teach WWII incarceration as a "debatable issue," the district nevertheless announced revisions to the LOI curriculum in January 2005: instructional time devoted to the unit was reduced from eighteen days to ten; lesson plans introduced additional historical context; parallels between WWII incarceration and post-9/11 national security policies were toned down; and teachers were asked to refrain from sharing personal views on the USA Patriot Act. [12]

Other WCLPEP-supported educational projects about WWII incarceration on Bainbridge Island faced significantly less controversy. For instance, the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC) created 'Honor and Sacrifice', a seventeen-minute documentary about Japanese Americans who served in the Military Intelligence Service during WWII, and an accompanying curriculum guide, "Dig Deep: Nisei in the WWII Pacific." With an $8,200 grant awarded in 2008, Global Source Education—a non-profit organization headed by former social studies teacher Jonathan Garfunkel and Katy Curtis, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum's educator coordinator—coordinated a three-day teacher training program, "Only What We Can Carry" (OWWCC). [13] Designed for twenty teachers from the Seattle area and developed in partnership with BIJAC, Woodward Middle School, and Sakai Intermediate School, OWWCC featured a private tour of Bainbridge's historic sites led by longtime residents, as well as presentations by incarceration survivors. Attendees also received curricular materials (some drawn from the LOI curriculum) and copies of In Defense of Our Neighbors: The Walt and Milly Woodward Story , published in 2008 by the Woodwards' daughter, Mary. [14]

Ending the Program

Due to state budget shortfalls stemming from the 2008 U.S. recession, legislators cut funding for the Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program in 2009. The state legislation that established WCLPEP officially encouraged grant recipients to explore linkages between WWII incarceration and other struggles against civil liberties violations throughout U.S. history and in contemporary American society, and to develop and distribute a range of innovative K-12 educational materials throughout the state. [15]

For More Information

Baurick, Tristan. "Internment Lesson Dropped from BI School Curriculum." Kitsap Sun October 26, 2007.

Conscience and the Constitution . Directed by Frank Abe, Lawson Fusao Inada, George Takei, Public Broadcasting Service and California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. Hohokus, NJ: Transit Media, 2011.

Honor and Sacrifice: Nisei Patriots in the MIS . Directed by Roy Matsumoto and Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community. Bainbridge Island, WA: Stourwater Pictures, 2011.

Global Source Education. "Only What We Can Carry." https://educultureproject.org/onlywhatwecancarry/ (accessed March 31, 2013).

Kiuchi, Atsushi and Dee Goto. Omoide IV: Childhood Memories . Seattle, WA: Nikkei Heritage Association of Washington, 2005.

Seelye, Katherine Q. "A Wall to Remember an Era's First Exiles." The New York Times , August 5, 2011.

Rabbit in the Moon . Directed by Emiko Omori, Chizuko Omori and Wabi-Sabi Productions. Seattle, WA: Furumoto Foundation, 2004.

Washington State Legislature. "RCW 28A.300.390." http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=28A.300.390 (accessed May 7, 2011).

———. "RCW 28A.300.395." http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=28A.300.395 (accessed May 7, 2011).

Authored by Alexandra L. Wood , New York University


  1. Dale Shimasaki, in discussion with the author, March 15, 2010.
  2. Washington State Legislature, "Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1572" http://www.k12.wa.us/SocialStudies/civilliberties/pubdocs/E2sHB1572PL.pdf (accessed May 16, 2010).
  3. Washington State Legislature, "Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1572."
  4. Washington State Legislature, "Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1572."
  5. Washington State Legislature, "Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1572."
  6. Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "Form SPI 1524" (application form, April 2004).
  7. Dee Goto, in discussion with the author, August 25, 2011; Omoide Project, "Omoide: Childhood Memories Series" http://www.jcccw.org/omoide (accessed August 16, 2011).
  8. Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "Project Descriptions" http://www.k12.wa.us/SocialStudies/civilliberties/descriptions.aspx (accessed August 11, 2011).
  9. Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "Project Descriptions."
  10. Charlene Mano-Shen and Rus Bareng, in discussion with the author, August 24, 2011.
  11. Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "Project Descriptions."
  12. Steven P. Camicia, "Teaching the Japanese American Internment: A Case Study of Social Studies Curriculum Contention," Ph.D. diss., University of Washington (2007), 34-37.
  13. Global Source Education, "Only What We Can Carry." http://www.globalsourcenetwork.org/OWWCC-Home.htm (accessed March 31, 2013).
  14. Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, "BIJAC News Special Edition 2011." Bainbridge Island, WA, 2011.
  15. Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, "Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program: Descriptions," https://www.k12.wa.us/SocialStudies/civilliberties/descriptions.aspx (accessed July 6, 2014).

Last updated Dec. 15, 2023, 5:18 p.m..