California Schools to Add LGBT Contributions to Curricula

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Second grade students in California will soon be learning about how some families have two moms or two dads due to new public school curriculum guidelines that address LGBT history in public schools.

The California State Board of Education unanimously voted on a new History-Social Science Framework that includes “a study of the role of contributions” of minority groups, including “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans,” according to the LA Times’ Joy Resmovits.

“We are proud to represent a diverse state, and we are proud that this framework reflects the state that we serve,” said Lauryn Wild, a Southern California curriculum specialist who chairs the advisory commission that produced the new guidelines, in a CBS SF Bay Area article.

In addition to the change in California’s second grade curriculum, there are additional proposed changes coming. For example, seniors will learn about the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, as well as recent court cases about bathroom access for transgender students, reports The Mercury News.

These changes came about as a result of the nation’s first law that requires schools to teach students about important gay people in history, as well as LGBT rights milestones. California lawmakers passed the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act in July 2011, which added LGBT people to a list of social and ethnic groups who contributed to state and US history.

But implementing the law has been a slow process. There were two failed attempts to overturn the law, as well as budget cuts and other education priorities. The California Department of Education received more than 10,000 email comments between December 2015 and the end of February 2016 about the law.

Finally, after four hours of public testimony, the new framework was accepted. However, dozens criticized the fact that other important sects in society are left out, including Muslims, Hindus, and Jews, reports Associated Press.

“There is no mention of Manifest Destiny or Native Americans,” Brianna Leemkuil, a U.S. history teacher at Yucaipa High School in San Bernardino County, said in a CBS SF Bay area article. “You want us to talk about a tiny LGBT community and ignore the killing of an entire people group?”

However, the LGBT community is happy with the move, according to a recent statement by Equality California, an LGBT advocacy group. The new curriculum, according to the group, better captures “essential moments in the struggle for equality, and the evolution of communities and identities,” as well as more accurately representing important LGBT people and their contributions to society. The group maintains that this will make LGBT students more comfortable in the classroom.

“It allows all students to think critically and expansively about how that past relates to the present and future roles that they can play in an inclusive and respectful society,” said Don Romesburg, framework director for the Committee on LGBT History.

The new framework also touches on additional History-Social Science topics, including gender roles, voter education, financial literacy, the history of people with disabilities, and genocide.

Following the announcement of the new guidelines, an advisory commission that produced the recommendations received thousands of written comments from the public. Some were in support of the measures, while others opposed the new guidelines or asked for changes or additions to the content.