CA law requiring positive portrayal of LGBT people in history finally implemented

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Education officials in California have taken the first step towards complying with a 2011 law requiring public schools to include LGBT people and milestones in relevant lessons.

SB 48, also known as the “Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act” (FAIR), is described by the California Teacher Association as requiring teachers to “integrate age-appropriate, factual information about social movements, current events and the history of people with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people into existing social studies lessons that include contributions of both men and women, people of color, diverse ethnic communities and other historically underrepresented groups.” 

The Sacramento-based California Board of Education unanimously approved on May 8 a set of new standards dictating that any teaching materials paid for with state funds cannot contain “descriptions, depictions, labels, or rejoinders that tend to demean, stereotype, or patronize individuals” that are LGBT. 

The standards further specify that said resources “should not convey the impression that persons of gay, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, or transgender identity, are any different from other people in their emotions or their ability to love and be loved.”

The standards will be used by California education officials to assist in the selection of new state-approved teaching material, which will then be examined to make certain they include historically important LGBT people. When paying with state funds, schools must buy educational materials such as textbooks from a list approved by the state.

California’s social content standards for education were last updated in 2000. This is the first revision to include a section requiring educational resources to have positive portrayals of LGBT individuals.

Conservative religious group Capitol Resource Institute twice attempted getting a ballot measure aimed at overturning the law, but was unsuccessful.

FAIR was intended to take effect in January 2012, but after budget cuts put state funds for textbooks on hold until 2015, most districts delayed their implementation of it. According to an Education Week’s Quality Counts report released in January 2013, California is #49 in the nation for school spending, down from #47 in 2012 and #43 in 2011. 

The inclusion of disabled people is also required by the new standards. In addition, a modification was made to the section regarding racial and ethnic groups, changing the outdated “American Negroes” to “African-Americans.”

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