Thanks to recently approved social studies curriculum framework, students in California public schools will soon learn about the evolution of gay rights and the contributions of lesbian and gay figures in history.
The state Board of Education on July 14 unanimously voted in favor of a new History-Social Science Framework which includes the roles and involvement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in history, officially implementing provisions of a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011.
The new framework begins addressing LGBT topics in the second grade, including content related to stories of diverse families, such as those with LGBT parents or children. In grade four, students will learn about the fight for gay rights from events in the 1950s to the 2015 Supreme Court decision supporting same-sex marriage. Then, in 11th grade students will be instructed on gay rights and identity in the progressive and social justice movements, including the Harlem Renaissance and the speakeasy era of the 1920s.
While there have been both applause and outrage statewide over the new framework – the LGBT content was vocally opposed by conservative groups when the legislation passed it five years ago – Turlock Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Heidi Lawler said that the district has not received complaints or communication regarding the new curriculum from parents thus far. According to Lawler, parents may request clarification on specific content that is being taught within TUSD and a teacher or site administrator will provide them with information.
Lawler expressed the importance of representing all Turlock community members within the district’s curriculum.
“As a district, we work toward creating positive school environments for every student,” said Lawler. “Turlock is a very diverse community, and TUSD’s goal is to serve our students in an equitable manner by showing respect for all and increasing opportunities, allowing all students to reach their full potential.”
The apprehension of the new framework felt by some parents is nothing new. The previous History-Social Science Framework provided content at the 7th grade level on world religions, such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity, as part of the curriculum. Lawler, a former principal for Turlock Junior High School, dealt with similar uncertainty from parents regarding the inclusive topics.
“I occasionally met with parents who were concerned about their children learning about a religion that they did not follow,” said Lawler. “When I explained the actual content and purpose for informing young people about different religions, parents almost always understood.”
Parents who disagreed were able to arrange for an alternate assignment to address the standards, according to Lawler.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson sees the new framework as “a big win for our students.”
“This document will improve the teaching and learning of history and social science,” said Torlakson. “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."
In addition to LGBT history, the framework also adds information on civic learning, financial literacy, voter education and genocide.