What California Kids Will Learn About LGBT History

The Golden State is the first in the nation to include prominent LGBT facts and figures in its public school curriculum.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Jul 16, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Along with learning how to add two-digit numbers and construct intelligible sentences, second graders in the state of California will soon learn about all kinds of family structures—including those with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender parents.

This week, the California Board of Education unanimously approved a history and social studies curriculum that includes prominent LGBT figures and milestones—from the Stonewall riots of 1969 to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015—for public school students.

“An LGBT-inclusive curriculum helps create an environment where all students can thrive,” Rick Zbur, the executive director of Equality California, said Thursday in a press release. Zbur noted that LGBT students face higher rates of bullying and depression than do other kids. “By seeing themselves reflected in lessons and materials, students’ experiences are validated and their sense of self-worth reinforced, creating the opportunity for students to be able to achieve academically,” he said.

In the new curriculum, LGBT milestones will pop up in history and social studies lessons multiple times throughout elementary, middle, and high school. After the initial introduction about diverse families, fourth-grade students will learn about the emergence of gay rights advocacy groups in the 1950s and one of the nation’s first openly gay public officials, Harvey Milk. In eighth grade, students will learn about traditional gender norms and groups that rebelled against them when settling out West in the first half of the 20th century.

A more in-depth analysis comes junior year of high school, with a history curriculum that looks at attempts to weed out gay and lesbian service members from the military; surveillance of suspected gay and lesbian government officials in the 1950s; and police raids on gay bars in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City in the 1960s. Students will also learn about the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.

The changes to the state syllabi have been a long time coming. Equality California cosponsored the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, which was signed into law in 2012. Its implementation lagged as conservatives argued that it should be each family’s choice if and how they teach their children about the LGBT rights movement.

Those complaints appear to have fallen silent. During an hours-long public forum this week, several families and educators objected to the ways religious groups were presented in the proposed educational plans, The Associated Press reports. No one protested the inclusion of the history of LGBT rights.