States continue to mandate anti-LGBT curriculum in the classroom
Although California recently celebrated the inaugural Harvey Milk Day in honor of the murdered gay rights activist, very few states have successfully included an LGBT-sensitive curriculum into their schools.
In fact, only a handful reference homosexuality or another non-heterosexual sexual identity in a positive light in high school health classes, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. These states are California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia.
There are, however, several states that are mandated to refer to same-sex orientation and homosexuality as negative. Some of those states include Utah, South Carolina, Mississippi and Arizona. Oklahoma is required to "instruct students that engaging in homosexual activity or promiscuous activity is now known to be primarily responsible for contact with the AIDS virus."
The most conservative state in this regard, Alabama, is required to reference state laws that ban sodomy, must refer to same sex activity as a public health risk and must state homosexuality is not acceptable to the general public, according to SIECUS.
Although California lawmakers approved Harvey Milk Day, Save California and other organizations continue to boycott it.
"Parents need to realize Harvey Milk Day isn’t about ’tolerance,’ ’equality’ or ’hope’ - it’s about desensitizing children as young as kindergarten to support the unhealthy and unnatural homosexual/bisexual/transsexual agenda of notorious gay activist named Harvey Milk," said the group’s president, Randy Thomasson.
There are organizations that are working diligently to reverse this thinking. Beth Reis, co-chair and public health educator for the Safe Schools Coalition, said it is vital to include LGBT-sensitive teachings into the curriculum on multiple levels.
"Any group of children that is made to feel less than welcome or invisible in the curriculum, whether that’s Latino children or children that live with grandparents, or children that are gender expansive, are likely to have less academic success," she said.
Reis also cited a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Public Health that found LGBT students who had gay and lesbian inclusive instruction reported fewer sexual partners, less recent sex and less substance abuse than those in schools without it.
"Clearly feeling as if the curriculum is relevant to you helps students to listen, to pay attention, and it makes a difference in terms of their health," said Reis.
Texas school curriculum controversy continues
Equality Texas recently testified to the Texas Board of Education to include accurate portrayals of LGBTs into the new social studies curriculum many naysayers call a political agenda by the conservative right to rewrite history. The proposals included providing scientifically-accurate and age-appropriate discussions of gender and sexual orientation and identity under the psychology section; discussing diversity of families in the sociology section; and including past and current human rights struggles of LGBT people in the United States history section.
The board has no plans to include any of these proposals, and Equality Texas’ proposals fell on deft ears.
I’m sitting up there saying by remaining silent on these issues you’re putting our kids in danger," said Randall Terrell, political director of Equality Texas. "You could’ve heard crickets in there."
As EDGE previously reported, the newly approved social studies curriculum consciously leaves out any mention of sexual identity, sexual orientation and homosexuality. Terrell said for the conservatives on the board, it’s mostly about votes.
"The real deal is that it’s dangerous for conservatives’ political future to speak out for LGBT issues," he said. "The crazy portion of the base can really get involved in gay bashing, but it turns off your average American voter and average Texas voter," he says. "So they can’t get up and say we support or we oppose you in this because there’s no right answer for them."
Some California parents oppose LGBT-specific curriculum
Back in California, the Alameda School District dropped an addition to their K-5 studies to combat anti-gay bullying called "Lesson 9" because of a lawsuit brought on by upset parents who felt their kids were too young to be exposed to such issues. Once the school district dropped the revised lesson plan, the parents dropped the lawsuit.
But there are ways to infuse LGBT subject matter in all classes, not exclusive to health and history. The Safe Schools Coalition, among other non-profits, provides material and training on how to include LGBT topics, such as teaching kindergarteners there are no boy colors or girl colors, and that families come in all shapes, sizes and styles.
Even Terrell believes the future looks bright for LGBT additions in Texas textbooks. Three conservative board members will not be back next year, and will most likely be replaced with more moderate candidates.
"On the LGBT stuff we’ve already won the war; kids get it," said Terrell. "We’re going to have equality sometime, we’re just fighting mop up battles. People have to pay attention to the SBOE races. This is the hell that we’re paying for allowing the conservatives to pick the SBOE."