California Schools Move Toward LGBT History Lessons

And if approved by state lawmakers, the effort could be a huge victory for racial justice.

By Thoai Lu Apr 20, 2011

The California Senate recently passed a bill that would add LGBT history to the social studies lessons that public schools must include in their curriculum, reported the New York Times. If the state Assembly adopts the bill and Gov. Jerry Brown signs it, California will be the first state to require that gay history be taught in its public schools.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, passed on a 23-14 partisan vote. The bill would also add disability studies to the curriculum, and starting in the 2013-14 school year, it would prohibit districts and the California Board of Education from using curriculum material that presents gay, bisexual and transgender people in a negative light.

However, not everyone in the state is in such an inclusive mood. Opponents include a long list of religious and conservative organizations, such as the California Catholic Conference and California Concerned Women for America, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. Ron Prentice, CEO of the California Family Council, wrote in an e-mail:

[The measure] forces the inclusion of LGBT persons into social science curriculum based on their sexual orientation alone. Sen. Leno’s intention with SB 48 is to increase every public school student’s exposure to the homosexual lifestyle, while disallowing any accurate but potentially unfavorable content to be included in the related curriculum.

Other opposing arguments are that the inclusion of such history would burden what some see as an already crowded curriculum and expose students to a subject that some parents would find objectionable. Considering the history of anti-LGBT violence and legislation though, I completely agree with supporters, who say that the move is necessary to address the high-profile bullying of LGBT students that’s led to suicides, which we covered last fall. 

"Both issues are resulting in a patchwork of laws, happening state by state," Roy wrote at New America Media. "In one case, it is because of the lack of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. In the other it’s because of the Defense of Marriage Act at the federal level."