Bill to mandate teaching LGBT history in California moves closer to classroom 

Prominent figures in LGBT history could play a larger role in classrooms throughout the state after a bill requiring their inclusion into California curriculum passed the state Assembly on Tuesday and headed to the governor’s desk.

The FAIR Education Act by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would require schools to teach at all grade levels the historical contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

If signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, schools would have to adopt such curriculum after the bill becomes law in
January.

While the bill would not immediately require school districts to purchase new textbooks, it would require them to include “instructional material” on appropriate topics. Textbooks would need to include LGBT figures by the 2015-16 school year.

“It’s no different than instructing students about the historical role of an African-American man by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., fighting for civil rights and being assassinated for his efforts than teaching students about a gay American man by the name of Harvey Milk fighting for every man’s civil rights and being assassinated for his efforts,” Leno said. “Why deny all students the benefit of that knowledge?”

Leno said his bill also seeks to help prevent bullying of homosexual students.

“This is a tragic and increasing phenomenon, and something needs to be done,” Leno said of bullying.

Some districts would need to rewrite their social science curriculum, but The City is already a step ahead of the bill’s requirements. San Francisco Unified School District has offered such curriculum, starting in kindergarten, since 1992, according to Kevin Gogin, the district’s health programs manager.

Opponents of the bill said the required curriculum would “confuse children” and “contradict the moral foundation.”

For instance, Concerned Women for America calls the bill “another step toward complete normalization of transgenderism, homosexuality and bisexuality through the public schools prompting open discussions.” The group calls homosexuality “unhealthy,” especially for males, and complains that the bill contains no opt-out provision.

However, Ardel Thomas, chair of LGBT studies at City College of San Francisco, said the bill’s approval is “terrific.”
“It’s about time,” Thomas said. “Historically, women, people of color, working-class people and people with disabilities have often been silenced. This is incredibly important.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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