Out of the shadows, into the textbook: California public schools add LGBT+ history to common core curriculum


Students in the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club discuss methods to welcoming LGBT into classrooms and learning environments. They also made plans for their upcoming club week.

by Katherine Zhang, Asst. STEM Editor

The California State Board of Education voted unanimously to incorporate the history of the LGBT community into public school curriculums on July 14, 2016, becoming the first state to do so.

California students will begin learning about same-sex marriage in second grade, when teachers introduce families with two parents of the same gender. Two years later, they will discuss California’s first openly gay politician, Harvey Milk, and his contributions to raising awareness about the LGBT community. Content about the LGBT community will be woven into curriculums in this way, culminating in high school U.S. government classes that will discuss the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“LGBTQ kids do exist, and learning about people like themselves in school will help counteract the unfortunately somewhat popular idea that children are too young to know about sexuality and orientations.”

— GSA Member Amelia Huchley (10)

“Studying LGBT history amounts to studying one of our country’s civil rights movements,” GSA advisor Abel Olivas said. “It’s crucial for students to gain that perspective and to view the various stages of the LGBT struggle through that lens.”

This decision comes as part of a larger campaign to expand and diversify California’s history and social science curriculums known as the History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools. The framework revises current public school curriculums to include the history of underrepresented groups including ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in classes from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Creating the framework is a step in the process of integrating the content required by the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, formerly known as Senate Bill 48. This law, which was implemented in 2012, amended California’s Education Code to include minority groups in educational textbooks and school curricula.

The ratification of the FAIR Education Act and the actions taken to uphold its guidelines have garnered support from California’s LGBT community and its supporters, including members of the Genders & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) Network.

“I think the changes to the curriculum are a great idea,” GSA member Amelia Huchley (10) said.  “LGBTQ kids do exist, and learning about people like themselves in school will help counteract the unfortunately somewhat popular idea that children are too young to know about sexuality and orientations.”

The FAIR Education Act and the new framework for public school curriculums have also faced opposition from concerned parents and socially conservative organizations alike. Soon after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the FAIR Education Act into law, a campaign known as Stop SB 48 began collecting signatures to repeal it, stating that the law infringes on parental rights.

Though Stop SB 48 did not gather enough signatures to repeal the FAIR Education Act, its concerns about the act continue to exist as the law is implemented. Particularly, some fear that elementary school students are too young to learn about the LGBT community and that such education may contradict students’ religious beliefs.

Others are open to the law and the new educational framework, but are wary about the mixing of politics and education that was involved in its creation.

“There is always concern when we politicize education and force children to learn based not on established teaching principles, but rather the personal agenda of a handful of adults in Sacramento,” Log Cabin Republican party member Jason Clark said. “However, history should be taught holistically; often people learn about history in a one-sided manner. The history of California has been made by a great many different groups of people. It’s part of the story of California, and it’s important that our children learn that.”

As of now, the new framework is one step closer to full implementation of the FAIR Act. However, opposition to the act continues, and educational materials such as textbooks have yet to be updated.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on January 24, 2017.