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California Passes Gay History Curriculum Bill

California lawmakers passed a bill that will broaden social studies curriculum in the state’s public schools to include lessons on gay history.

The bill, which passed both houses of the legislature by a near two-to-one margin, would leave specific implementation points to the discretion of school administrators. Local school boards would determine the content of lessons and the grade levels to which lessons are assigned.

The bill now goes to governor Jerry Brown for final approval. Brown, a Democrat, has not said publicly if he supported the bill. If he chooses to not sign it, nor use his veto power, the measure would become law automatically. Only Brown's veto would prevent the bill from becoming law.

Supporters of the bill say the law would help alleviate bullying based on sexual orientation by combating stereotypes and misconceptions about lesbian, gay, trans-gendered, bi-sexual and questioning (LGTBQ) individuals.

“Of course we are pleased to hear that California is moving this bill forward,” said Kamora Herrington, Mentoring Program Coordinator for True Colors, a non-profit organization that works with social service agencies, schools, organizations and communities to ensure that the needs of sexual and gender minority youth are both recognized and competently met. “This is a step in the right direction because leaving any group out of the discussion is a detriment; however, it is a shame that this type of thing has to be legislated.”

Opponents say that the law would mandate lessons that many parents find objectionable.

Herrington added that while it’s important to include everyone in history lessons, LGTBQ people are often at a disadvantage because they are the only minority whose parents are not also a member of that same minority group. These individuals therefore must rely on sources outside the home to learn about their history.

While the state of California has mandated gay history be taught in schools, the city of Los Angeles is looking into the probem of homophobia. The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which recently teamed up to end LGBTQ youth suicide and reduce homophobia in the nation's second largest school district, hosted an historic summit June 29, 2011 to draft a comprehensive plan of action.

Summit organizers from the Center and LAUSD will now compile a final report and recommendations before submitting a proposed plan of action to LAUSD. Additionally, a community council will be convened to ensure a high level of community involvement and to help build a support network for LGBTQ students and their schools.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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