Legislation that has been introduced in Springfield, Illinois, would require LGBT history to be taught in the state’s public schools. It would require the teaching in public schools of the study of the “role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State.”
It would also require every public elementary school and high school to include in its curriculum a unit of instruction “studying the significant role of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in society.” The requirements would be made effective in July 2019.
Supporters of the bill say that textbooks purchased by the state and curriculum taught in schools must “accurately portray the diversity of our society.” They say similar rules already exist for the study of African-Americans and other groups. They lament the fact however, that there is not a similar focus on LGBT history.
“There is no justice for LGBTQ people when we are erased from the study of history,” said Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, a LGBT advocacy group.
Critics oppose the legislation on religious grounds. They worry about the values such legislation imposes on students with different beliefs and convictions. “Where’s the protection for students and parents who have a religious belief?” said Ralph Rivera, a lobbyist with the conservative Illinois Family Institute.
“Which has always been the case, this is not a new, avant-garde thing that they find this behavior to be against their religious beliefs and their churches’ or synagogues’ beliefs. No one seems to be mindful of that. They don’t care.”
The bill is also facing opposition from the Illinois Association of School Boards, whose stance is usually to let local school boards decide matters of curriculum without state lawmakers getting involved.
The proposal has won preliminary approval from the Illinois House and Senate committees and could be debated further in coming weeks. “We’re really trying to do this in a way that gives as much flexibility as possible to school districts,” said state Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat and the bill’s sponsor.
Photo by Daniel Schwen by Wikimedia Commons