California today became the nation’s first state to require its public schools to teach students about the history and contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The new law, SB48, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown today and will take effect in January.
“History should be honest,” Brown said in a statement.
The measure authored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, adds LGBT groups to a list of cultural and ethnic categories that school districts have previously been required to describe accurately and fairly in social studies classes.
Previously listed categories include minority groups and women.
“Today we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans,” Leno said.
Changes in textbooks used in California schools are not expected to appear until the 2015-16 school year, when the next round of textbook revision in the state will be put in place.
In the meantime, Leno said, the law also requires teachers to include lessons about the role and contributions of LGBT people, but gives them wide latitude in deciding how to do so and does not require specific lesson plans.
“School districts have the ability to choose which textbooks and supplemental materials to use and teachers have the ability to create lesson plans. Specific material will vary from classroom to classroom,” Leno said during a telephone news conference.
Leno and gay leaders said during the phone conference that they expect the measure to help gay students by promoting greater understanding of homosexuality and thereby reducing harassment and bullying.
“It will improve students’ safety and create an atmosphere of respect for all California students,” said Roland Palencia, executive director of Equality California.
The measure was opposed by traditional-family groups, including Sacramento-based SaveCalifornia.com, whose director, Randy Thomasson, called the new requirement “immoral indoctrination.”
“Jerry Brown has trampled the parental rights of the broad majority of California mothers and fathers who don’t want their children to be sexually brainwashed,” Thomasson said.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News