California Senate Bill 48, also known informally as the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) History Law, officially becomes law with the New Year and overall I agree with the law — with a lot of
The new law, which is titled the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Law, is controversial because it requires social science instruction to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to the development of California and the United States.
In addition to LGBT, the law requires recognition of a number of ethnic racial minority groups and people with disabilities as well as mandates the banning of any instructional materials that reflect adversely on LGBTs or particular religions.
Currently there are five religious or conservative- based initiatives to recall SB 48 or remove the controversial language filed with the California Attorney General.
Personally, I have no problem with teaching about LGBT historical contributions — to a point — and I feel that is the opinion of most people. But there is something missing from the law. There is no direction for school district regarding what is appropriate for each grade level.
I have three kids and I don’t think that if they are taught about the historical contributions of transgender citizens they will grow up to become transgender or gay or lesbian or whatever. However, I do think there is an appropriate age to introduce and teach about LGBT history. Would I feel comfortable if my first grade little girl came home with a coloring worksheet that showed two men holding hand? Probably not.
Now, would I feel comfortable if she was a high school frosh and she had to write a report about lesbian contributions to California history? Yes. I feel there is an appropriate age for these types of discussions. Back in my day sexual education started in fifth grade — perhaps the LGBT discussions should start then. By the time I was in fifth grade I had observed enough human behavior to determine that gays and lesbians existed and that not everyone had a heterosexual mom and dad.
Speaking of sex-ed shouldn’t there be a note for parents or something when LGBT curriculum is discussed? There is no guidance in the law whatsoever for this. I definitely remember having to have my parents sign a note for sex-ed that asked them to approve or not approve my involvement.
Another point I thought about when reading this is why does this even have to be a law and how exactly will teachers talk about LGBT contributions? Since when did we have to identify people’s contributions to society because of who they happen to sleep with? Is this a civil rights issue? You can argue that but what if you’re in seventh grade and you’re learning about California architecture. The teacher says “This person designed the state capitol building, it took 4,000 pages of drawings and 70 tons of steel to build, and, oh and by the way, the designer was bisexual and was known to dress up in drag.” To me that just seems ridiculous, odd and pointless. It doesn’t seem odd to me because the designer was bisexual or dressed up in drag, but what does that have to do with his historical contribution?
I would imagine that curriculum would simply recognize the LGBT contributions with a note that in the past the LGBT community was often left out of history books. To me that would make sense; but how do schools tackle this issue? There is NO guidance.
The FAIR Education law is so vague that it provides almost no instruction for school districts to follow — leaving them open to further controversy and pressure from all sides of the issue.
I spoke with one middle school principal who said his school district is frustrated with mandates from the state that provide no direction and that when the district begins discussing how to develop the LGBT history curriculum it will be controversial in the community.
Turlock Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Lacrisha Ferriera explained that TUSD has not received any guidance at all on the subject and what she thinks will happen is that the California State Department of Education will provide guidance to County Offices of Education which will then send word down to individual school districts.
“We have had zero information shared with us about this; to my knowledge the Stanislaus County Office of Education hasn’t even begun discussion with us about this. All we know is that the intent is by the 2013-14 school year we will be teaching in accordance with the law. What exactly, how and what grade levels will be discussed as soon as we have guidance,” she said.
Ferriera indicated that LGBT discussions have been occurring in schools for years.
“In high school we talk about and study cultures in our society and that tends to lend itself to discussion about sexual minorities. I think if you would find a very high level of awareness amongst our high school students already.”
Denair Unified School District Superintendent Ed Parraz said DUSD will begin crafting a curriculum early in 2012.
In any event the reality is that it will be several years until schools and districts will catch up to the FAIR Education law. With budget cuts slashed reprinting and purchase of new textbooks could be five or more years away. Will schools have to purchase supplemental material? No one seems to know, because the law is too vague.
I think the FAIR Education law is definitely a step in the right direction but to me it seemed like a rushed law with little foresight into practical, real-world applications. The reality is there will be parents who don’t want their children to learn about LGBT history and many people feel this is an issue for the home and not the classroom.
I feel it is an issue for both arenas of thought and discussion. I think it would be appropriate to see a more developed law that includes an age level, an op-out for parents and general outline for how to teach the subject. In all other areas teachers are given, at the very least, a guideline for what the students are expected to know and how teachers can help them get there. This is a topic that needs one as well.
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.