Panel: California Students Not Learning Enough LGBT History


According to a national panel of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history scholars, California is not teaching students enough on the subject of gay and lesbian history, despite a 2011 law requiring schools to do just that.

In order to ensure that all students are properly learning about LGBT historical figures and how they helped to shape our current society, the Committee on LGBT History proposed a revision to the state history and social studies framework in their report, “Making the Framework FAIR: California History-Social Science Framework Proposed LGBT Revisions Related to the FAIR Education Act,” which was created with the help of 20 leading scholars of LGBT history as well as feedback from K-12 educators in the state.

“Not including LGBT people in public instruction means not reflecting the reality that we live in,” Don Romesburg, the chairman of the women and gender studies department at SSU and the co-chairman of the LGBT history committee said. “It’s an omission that needs to be rectified.”

Contributions made by the gay community over the course of history are required to be included in textbooks and lesson plans, according to the 2011 Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respective Education Act.  The recent findings have caused the state Department of Education to take a closer look at its history and social studies framework for the first time almost 10 years.

The commission drafted updates to the framework to include such topics as the legalization of gay marriage at both the state and national level, the Lavender Scare persecution of gay people in the 1950s, as well as historical figures, including Harvey Milk.

Updates by grade level include: learning about family diversity in grade 2, central roles played by the LGBT community in California’s history in grade 4, transformation of gender laws over time in grade 5, as well as the evolution of modern LGBT communities and 20th century persecution in grade 11.

Committee members said the current framework made little mention of the gay community.

“We were surprised by how minimal their proposal is for inclusion,” Romesburg said. “We would make comprehensive changes.”

While the advisory body to the state Board of Education the Instructional Quality Commission has drafted its own framework, it welcomes suggestions from other sources.

“We invite public comment,” said Tom Adams, executive director of the commission. “While we’re in the middle of the process, it’s good to have participation.”

The new framework will be voted on in December by the commission, after which another round of public comments will be allowed.  The final vote will take place in April by the Board of Education.

“We have a law and we have a responsibility to put it into play,”  said Bill Carle, chairman of the Santa Rosa City School Board. “People are starting to get the concept that we are all different. We have to be clear in our teaching and embrace that diversity and teach the positive aspects of that.”