Proposed Bill Would Incorporate LGBT Info in Public School Curriculum

Filed under: In The News

LGBT info picture

The new bill would rewrite the history books to include LGBT history and contributions. Credit: Corbis

Abraham Lincoln. Rosa Parks. John F. Kennedy. Harvey Milk?

If a California state senator has his way, the state's public schools will be required to teach students about the historical contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, such as Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

Sen. Mark Leno, an openly gay legislator from San Francisco, is proposing Senate Bill 48, known as the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. The bill would ensure that LGBT people and history are fairly and accurately included in instructional materials and would help combat bullying in schools, according to a press release from LGBT advocacy organization Equality California (EQCA), one of the bill's sponsors.

"Most textbooks don't include any historical information about the LGBT movement, which has great significance to both California and U.S. history," Leno says in the release.

The bill also would prohibit the State Board of Education from using instructional material that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. EQCA says the bill would bring classroom instruction into alignment with existing non-discrimination laws in California that address the portrayal of women and underrepresented cultural and ethnic groups in history and other instructional materials.

The bill's proponents say introducing fair and accurate information about LGBT people in instructional materials will "improve student safety, reduce bullying, enrich the learning experiences of all students and promote and atmosphere of safety and respect in California schools," the release states.

Geoff Kors, EQCA executive director, points to the number of young people who have tragically taken their own lives after being bullied for being LGBT -- or perceived as being LGBT -- and says it's critical that more is done to ensure all children feel fully welcomed.

"The goal is that all students learn about history in an accurate way," Kors tells ParentDish. "Right now, the civil rights struggles of other groups are taught, yet the civil rights struggle of the gay community is made invisisble in school. By teaching students about diverse people and diverse groups, they will become more respectful of others which will have a dramatic impact in reducing bullying."

Kors tells ParentDish that, so often, the discrimination of bullying comes from the fear of something you're not familiar with. But when when you're exposed to different cultures, you're no longer fearful because you learn there's nothing to be fearful of. In this way, this legislation would not only be good for LGBT students, but for all students, he says.

Although some news outlets have pointed to a similar proposal which was vetoed in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger, Kors says this legislation is different because it includes a push for inclusive education, which was omitted from the last bill by the time it reached the governor's office.

According to the EQCA release, about 20 lawmakers have agreed to co-author the legislation, which will be heard in the Senate in 2011.

The bill is expected to draw wide support from a diverse array of groups, including teachers. And Kors says the only objections they anticipate hearing will be from extreme right wing groups who are opposed many LGBT civil right issues such as equality in the workplace and same-sex marriage.

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