LGBT History to Be Taught in California Public Schools
The Board of Education approved sweeping curriculum changes aimed at weaving the contributions of minorities into the story of America.
It was in 2008 that Californians voted to amend the state constitution to prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying, and now less than a decade later, not only have gays won the right to marry, but their families, their struggle for equality, and their icons are officially part of the curriculum in Golden State classrooms.
This month, the State Board of Education approved curriculum changes to include the history of gay and lesbian leaders and their civil rights struggles. Starting as early as second grade, students will learn age-appropriate lessons about families with two moms or two dads. When they are older, they will learn about Harvey Milk, the San Francisco county supervisor who fought against prejudice before he was assassinated by another boardmember.
The new curriculum stems from the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Act, a 2012 California law seeking greater representation of the LGBT community and other minorities in history, social and civic lessons.
According to KCRA.com, it’s the nation’s first law requiring public schools to teach about LGBT rights and milestones. Its implementation was stalled by legal battles.
"We are proud to represent a diverse state, and we are proud that this framework reflects the state that we serve," Lauryn Wild, a Southern California curriculum specialist who chairs the advisory commission that produced the new guidelines told KCRA.
Second graders will learn that some families might have two moms or dads. When students are older, they will learn about the state’s first openly gay elected leader Harvey Milk along with his fight for civil rights and subsequent assassination.
Additionally, children will learn about gender roles of previous centuries and the 2015 Supreme Court decision striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.
The radical change in curriculum met with diehard opponents and supporters alike. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Department of Education received more than 10,000 email comments on the change over a three month comment period.
But State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson sees the change as overdue. “It will give our students access to the latest historical research and help them learn about the diversity of our state and the contributions of people and groups who may not have received the appropriate recognition in the past,” he told the Times.
The newspaper quoted Miguel Covarrubias, a U.S. history teacher at Highland Park’s Franklin High School, who said many of his students are new to the history of the LGBT movement. "Some are initially uncomfortable,” Covarrubias said. “It makes a huge difference to know how they are part of the evolving American story.”