Thursday, July 7, 2011

California Governor Considers Signing Landmark LGBT History Bill

Today's blog is written by Emma Townsend-Merino, PFLAG National's 2011 Policy Intern.

The FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Act (SB 48) passed through the California State Assembly 49-25 and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. This legislation is the first state law of its kind that requires public school curriculum to cover the historical contributions of LGBT people in social science classes. Governor Brown has not stated whether or not he will sign the bill.

While California schools already require that students must learn about the contributions of groups such as women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and European Americans, there are no existing curriculum requirements for students to learn about historical figures who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. If Governor Brown signs this bill, California public school districts would be the first in the country required to adopt teaching materials about LGBT people in history, as well as prohibiting materials that are biased against LGBT people.

As a native Californian, this bill is enormously significant to me. I attended California public schools from kindergarten through high school, and none of my classes ever covered the important contributions that LGBT people have made to the world. It was an incredibly isolating experience and contributed to my feelings of confusion and sadness about my sexuality throughout high school.

The 2009 GLSEN School climate Survey found that an appalling 9 out of 10 LGBT students report experiencing harassment at school. However, LGBT adolescents attending schools with supportive staff members were more likely to feel safe in school and were less likely to be harassed or victimized. This legislation would aid in making school a safe and supportive environment for LGBT teens.

I hope that Governor Brown will sign this bill into law without delay so no other LGBT person in California public schools will have to go to school without their teachers recognizing that LGBT people exist and can accomplish great things. I encourage any Californians who are invested in helping LGBT children and adolescents have a better school experience contact Governor Brown by calling, emailing or writing his office (Governor Jerry Brown c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173Sacramento, CA 9581) to demonstrate the importance of this bill today!