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LGBT History Classes Are Coming to California Schools

LGBT curriculum in schools

California is hoping to bring schools into the 21st century.

On Thursday, the California State Board of Education voted on new curriculum for its history and social science courses that expands its teaching on LGBT history, including  “a study of the role of contributions” of  “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.”

The new guidelines will extend to elementary, middle, and high school courses, as the Associated Press reports.

“In second grade, California students will learn about families with two moms or two dads,” writes the AP. “Two years later, while studying how immigrants have shaped the Golden State, they will hear how New York native Harvey Milk became a pioneering gay politician in San Francisco.”

During their senior year, students will also study the 2015 SCOTUS decision legalizing same-sex marriage, as well as the nationwide fight over public bathroom access for transgender individuals.

The updated guidelines were based in the 2012 passage of the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. Sponsored by State Sen. Mark Leno, the legislation mandated that California K-12 institutions include marginalized groups often excluded from public school curricula. This includes people of color, religious minorities, and those with disabilities.

Conservative groups have long sought to overturn the bill, with right-wing organizations petitioning to have it struck down at the ballot box. That attempt failed, unable to collect the minimum number of signatures for inclusion.

The FAIR Education Act faced a number of other obstacles to being effectively put into place, according to the AP. “Its implementation was slowed by attempts to overturn it, competing educational priorities and budget cuts that stalled work on drafting recommendations for the school board and textbook purchases,” the AP reports.

LGBT advocates complained that the initial guidelines, passed in 2014, barely broached the subject of equality at all, teaching a handful of important figures.

Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, told the AP that resolving these issues by providing inclusive, comprehensive teaching on LGBT lives is of great benefit to both schools and the youth they serve.

“This document will improve the teaching and learning of history and social science,” Torlakson stated in a press release. “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.”

Allyson Chiu, a junior at Cupertino High School in Cupertino, Calif., said this instruction will most crucially impact LGBT students, many of whom don’t know their history. For students seeking to become comfortable in their identity, she said that can be a lifeline.

"My classmates can solve quadratic equations or cite the elements on the periodic table,” Chiu told the AP. “They can't tell you who Harvey Milk was or the significance of the Stonewall Riots.”

The FAIR Education Act will likely, however, face continued obstacles to implementation, both from conservative groups and parents. Between the December 2015 and the end of February 2016, the California Department of Education received more than 10,000 emails about the bill, as the AP reports.

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