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Illinois Mandates LGBTQ Inclusion in Public School Curricula

Governor Pritzker
Governor Pritzker

Illinois is the fifth state to require that schools teach about the contributions of LGBTQ people.

Illinois has become the fifth state to require that public schools teach about the contributions of LGBTQ people.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed a bill to that effect into law Friday, LGBTQ rights group Equality Illinois announced in a press release.

"We are excited to pass and enact the Inclusive Curriculum Law in 2019 -- the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall riots and the birth of the modern LGBTQ equality movement," Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, said in the release. "As a former first-grade teacher, I know how an inclusive education system can create change within a community. By including information in public school curriculum about the contributions of LGBTQ people and affiliated historical events, we will get closer as a state to telling the whole story of our shared history."

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Anna Moeller in the House and Sen. Heather Steans in the Senate. It was an initiative of Equality Illinois, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, and the Legacy Project, and had the support of more than 40 education, health care, and civil rights organizations across the state.

The law goes into effect in the 2020-2021 school year. Illinois joins California, Oregon, New Jersey, and Colorado in mandating such an inclusive curriculum.

Illinois already requires that schools include the contributions and experiences of other historically marginalized communities, including people of color, women, immigrant communities, and people with disabilities, Equality Illinois notes.

The new law states that all textbooks purchased "must include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act and must be non-discriminatory as to any of the characteristics under the Act."

"This legislation exemplifies a demonstrated commitment to build and nurture an inclusive and supportive environment in the educational system in Illinois," said Mary F. Morten, board chair for the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, a program of the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago. "Gaining a greater knowledge and understanding of the contributions of various underrepresented communities benefits all of us. As we move toward what true diversity, equity, and inclusion means in our school communities, this is a critical and vital step in the right direction."

"An inclusive history will affirm for LGBTQ students that people just like them existed and made significant contributions to society," said Johnson. "This inclusive history will also benefit non-LGBTQ students, who would be taught the whole story about the achievements of LGBTQ people and the historical events that impacted all of us."

Pritzker, who succeeded Republican Bruce Rauner as governor this year, has signed several other pro-LGBTQ bills into law. They include one mandating that all single-occupant public restrooms be gender-neutral and one designating LGBTQ and HIV-positive older adults as populations of "greatest social need" for inclusion in programming for the aging.

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