July 15, 2011 | by Phil Reese
California to mandate LGBT inclusion in curriculum
Jerry Brown, California, gay news, Washington Blade

California Gov. Jerry Brown. (Photo by Phil Konstantin)

On Thursday, after veto fears, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the historic FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Act, authored by openly gay California state senator Mark Leno. The first law of its kind in the nation would compel schools to include some LGBT history in their curriculum. The state already mandates the representation of other under-represented groups in curriculum, and this act merely adds gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender to the classes covered by existing law.

As the most populous state in the nation, and one of the nation’s largest textbook buyers, California’s decision will no-doubt influence textbooks in school districts outside of the state as well, possibly influencing attitudes toward gay and lesbian historical figures in schools across the nation.

According to Leno’s office, “the bill ensures that the historical contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and disabled individuals are accurately and fairly portrayed in instructional materials by adding these groups to the existing list of under-represented cultural and ethnic groups already included in the state’s inclusionary education requirements.”

“There is no room for discrimination of any kind in our classrooms, our communities or our state,” said Dean E. Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association in the same statement from Sen. Leno’s office. “We believe that curricula should address the common values of the society, promote respect for diversity and cooperation, and prepare students to compete in, and cope with a complex and rapidly evolving society. SB 48 does that by helping to ensure that curricular materials include the contributions of persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans to the development of California and United States.”

The California-based National Center for Lesbian Rights called it “one of the most important bills our community has ever championed.”

“The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act — authored by Senator Mark Leno, sponsored by Equality California and Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and drafted with the help of NCLR — will help make schools safer for LGBT youth,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell wrote in a statement Thursday. “It will ensure that LGBT people and issues are no longer left out of history and social science classes, and that all students have an opportunity to learn about the contributions of LGBT people throughout our history.”

According to some advocates, research indicates students who learn about LGBT people experience safer school environments for LGBT youth.

“In schools where the contributions of the LGBT community are included in educational instruction, bullying declined by over half and LGBT students were more likely to feel they have an opportunity to make positive contributions at school,” Equality California touted in a statement, Thursday. “The FAIR Education Act will bring classroom instruction into alignment with existing non-discrimination laws in California and would add the LGBT community to the existing list of underrepresented cultural and ethnic groups, which are covered by current law related to inclusion in textbooks and other instructional materials in schools.”

Some activists feared Governor Brown would be unwilling to sign the first-of-its-kind legislation, and many organizations and bloggers posted calls to action for the California LGBT community this week, encouraging supporters of the law to call and lobby for the Governor’s signature. Strong opposition to the bill formed in the days before its signature, and many anti-gay groups attempted to mobilize their memberships to pressure the Governor to veto the bill. In the end, the Governor opted to make history in California.

The full text of the bill follows.

BILL NUMBER: SB 48 ENROLLED
BILL TEXT

PASSED THE SENATE APRIL 14, 2011
PASSED THE ASSEMBLY JULY 5, 2011
AMENDED IN SENATE MARCH 29, 2011

INTRODUCED BY Senator Leno
(Principal coauthor: Senator Kehoe)
(Principal coauthors: Assembly Members Ammiano, Atkins, Gordon,
and Lara)
(Coauthors: Senators Alquist, Hancock, Lowenthal, Pavley, Price,
and Yee)
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Allen, Blumenfield, Fong, Galgiani,
Hayashi, Huffman, Bonnie Lowenthal, Mendoza, Portantino, and Yamada)

DECEMBER 13, 2010

An act to amend Sections 51204.5, 51500, 51501, 60040, and 60044
of the Education Code, relating to instruction.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

SB 48, Leno. Pupil instruction: prohibition of discriminatory
content.

Existing law requires instruction in social sciences to include a
study of the role and contributions of both men and women and
specified categories of persons to the development of California and
the United States.

This bill would update references to certain categories of persons
and additionally would require instruction in social sciences to
include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and
members of other cultural groups, to the development of California
and the United States.

Existing law prohibits instruction or school sponsored activities
that promote a discriminatory bias because of race, sex, color,
creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry. Existing law prohibits
the State Board of Education and the governing board of any school
district from adopting textbooks or other instructional materials
that contain any matter that reflects adversely upon persons because
of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or
ancestry.

This bill would revise the list of characteristics included in
these provisions by referring to race or ethnicity, gender, religion,
disability, nationality, and sexual orientation, or other
characteristic listed as specified.

Existing law prohibits a governing board of a school district from
adopting instructional materials that contain any matter reflecting
adversely upon persons because of their race, color, creed, national
origin, ancestry, sex, handicap, or occupation, or that contain any
sectarian or denominational doctrine or propaganda contrary to law.

This bill would revise the list of characteristics included in
this provision to include race or ethnicity, gender, religion,
disability, nationality, sexual orientation, and occupation, or other
characteristic listed as specified.

Existing law requires that when adopting instructional materials
for use in the schools, governing boards of school districts shall
include materials that accurately portray the role and contributions
of culturally and racially diverse groups including Native Americans,
African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European
Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups to the
total development of California and the United States.

This bill would revise the list of culturally and racially diverse
groups to also include Pacific Islanders, lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender Americans, and persons with disabilities.

Existing law provides that there shall be no discrimination on the
basis of specified characteristics in any operation of alternative
schools or charter schools.

This bill would state the intent of the Legislature that
alternative and charter schools take notice of the provisions of this
bill in light of provisions of existing law that prohibit
discrimination in any aspect of their operation.

This bill also would make other technical, nonsubstantive changes.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. Section 51204.5 of the Education Code is amended to
read:

51204.5. Instruction in social sciences shall include the early
history of California and a study of the role and contributions of
both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican
Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans,
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with
disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the
economic, political, and social development of California and the
United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the
role of these groups in contemporary society.

SEC. 2. Section 51500 of the Education Code is amended to read:

51500. A teacher shall not give instruction and a school district
shall not sponsor any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias
on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability,
nationality, sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic
listed in Section 220.

SEC. 3. Section 51501 of the Education Code is amended to read:

51501. The state board and any governing board shall not adopt
any textbooks or other instructional materials for use in the public
schools that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on
the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability,
nationality, sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic
listed in Section 220.

SEC. 4. Section 60040 of the Education Code is amended to read:

60040. When adopting instructional materials for use in the
schools, governing boards shall include only instructional materials
which, in their determination, accurately portray the cultural and
racial diversity of our society, including:

(a) The contributions of both men and women in all types of roles,
including professional, vocational, and executive roles.

(b) The role and contributions of Native Americans, African
Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders,
European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and
cultural groups to the total development of California and the
United States.

(c) The role and contributions of the entrepreneur and labor in
the total development of California and the United States.

SEC. 5. Section 60044 of the Education Code is amended to read:

60044. A governing board shall not adopt any instructional
materials for use in the schools that, in its determination, contain:

(a) Any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of
race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, sexual
orientation, occupation, or because of a characteristic listed in
Section 220.

(b) Any sectarian or denominational doctrine or propaganda
contrary to law.

SEC. 6. It is the intent of the Legislature that alternative and
charter schools take notice of the provisions of this act in light of
Section 235 of the Education Code, which prohibits discrimination on
the basis of disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity,
religion, sexual orientation, or other specified characteristics in
any aspect of the operation of alternative and charter schools.

 

4 Comments
  • As a teacher, I’m against the idea of discrimination but being forced to teach an agenda is puzzling to say the least- the logistics alone, with little enough time provided to teach the basic modern history course, would argue against adding more layers in place of factual information. I teach 20th century history- do I need to spend time in the course talking about homosexuals in the Third Reich (like most of the SA, or are only ‘good’ homosexuals to be given a voice), or homosexuals who specifically made a difference in the League of Nations, or how those who wanted to have sex with their own sex helped convince the US to finally leave Vietnam? I mean, what is it about homosexuality as opposed to any other facet of history that demands students be taught about it? Will Chinese be thrown in?

  • I don’t understand why a persons sexual orientation should have to be mention when discussing their contributions to California history. A contribution is asexual. It is the contribution itself that is of importance not the persons sexual orientation. To simply pick and chose a contribution’s validaty because of a sexual preference is absurd. Why don’t we just teach our children instead of propagandize them. This is why parents are choosing to home school. Children get an education; not an agenda.

  • The irony here is that its called the FAIR act. I send my kids to private school and crap like this is why.

  • It isn’t about teaching sexual orientation but teaching about Stonewall, Legal Cases, The right to marry (think Loving vs Virginia). Also, as we have learned about the influence of spouses on our leaders – Martha Washington, Dolly Madison, Mary Todd Lincoln – a same sex spouse would no longer be hidden. It is now about “Outing” every gay person in history. Remember – we did learn that Julius Caesar was every woman’s husband and every man’s wife.” and that was high school.

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