CA Governor Signs Bill Requiring Schools Teach LGBT History; TN Pretends Gays Don’t Exist
California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into a law a bill that would require public schools to teach the role and contributions of the LGBT community in the development of California and the U.S. The bill passed in the state assembly with a vote of 49-25 and no support from any Republicans.
California schools already teach students about the contributions of women and minority racial and ethnic groups—now the LGBT community will also be added to the textbooks.
SB 48 also includes provisions to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in the classroom. State senator Mark Leo, the author of the bill, also hopes that it will help to combat the bullying of LGBT youth in their schools.
A similar bill was passed in California in 2006, but then-Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed it. California Assemblyman Donald Wagner, a Republican who opposed the bill, argues that it politicizes education. He explains, "Writing these provisions into textbooks will further an agenda rather than teach facts. When we do things, we politicize them because that's the nature of politics. We should leave education to the educators.”
But Equality California’s Mario Guerrero argues that “studies have shown that LGBT inclusion in curriculum is linked to greater student safety and lower rates of bullying.”
Meanwhile, the Tennessee state senate has passed a bill that prohibits teachers from discussing homosexuality with students in kindergarten through eighth grade—because they are not mature enough to handle it. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as critics call it, limits instruction in the classroom “exclusively to age-appropriate natural human reproduction science."
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Stacey Campbell says that because "homosexuals don't naturally reproduce" they have no place in classroom curricula and that families should be able to decide when or if to discuss homosexuality with their children. The bill would bar teachers from talking about gay issues or sexuality with students who identify as gay or have gay parents or family members. Hundreds of Tennessee students protested the passage of the bill in the Senate. If the bill passes in the House, it will be the first legislation of this kind in the country.
Because of the fiscal crisis in California public schools, even if SB 48 does become law, it might not be until 2015 that California students see new textbooks. But, because California is such a large purchaser of textbooks in the United States, any change they make is likely to affect textbook content for the rest of the country.
Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.