Advocates Want LGBTQ+ History Taught In Schools

District Does Not Have LGBTQ+ Curriculum Planned Soon

January 7, 2022

     Not a lot is commonly known about the history of those in the LGBTQ+ community, and much is left out of today’s curriculum regarding such history in schools. But advocates are working to change that.

     Students who attend schools with a LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum experience a safer, less judgemental environment with their peers, according to GLSEN, an advocacy group founded by teachers working toward creating a welcoming learning environment for LGBTQ+ youth.

I’ve been told that my identity doesn’t make sense and been called a thing or an alien.”

— Ray Leath, 10

     “Our students would feel safer,” school community resource specialist Tammy Slauson said. “And I say the students in general in all schools would feel safer and feel that they’re more accepted by their peers. They would feel that they wouldn’t have to hide who they are or be quiet about it.”

      GLSEN research showed positive effects of teaching LGBTQ+ history in schools and found that it can help students and staff better understand one another’s differences and backgrounds. 

     “Everybody has an identity,” Slauson said. “We teach about different identities, and they need to be included with those because they are also different identities.”  

Inclusive Curriculum Could Help Students Connect

     Learning For Justice and GLSEN both explained a theory called “Windows and Mirrors” which suggests that what is taught in schools acts as a window to students outside of communities to learn about them, while also posing as a mirror to students in those communities to see themselves represented in classrooms. 

     An inclusive curriculum would help improve students’ ability to connect more with their classmates.

     “We teach about everything else,” Slauson said. “Why are we not teaching about those folks as well? They have a very important history, a very rich history, they are people, and they deserve to be treated as such.”

     LGBTQ+ students whose schools teach queer history are more likely to perform well academically and feel safer in their learning environment, according to GLSEN research.

     “It’s important to learn because it’s a part of who we are as people,” assistant superintendent Eric Johnson, Ed.D., said.

     Johnson also said little steps are being taken to include all students in schools across the district, such as gender neutral bathrooms being incorporated in construction of new buildings or existing ones in the future, however LGBTQ+ education being added in the curriculum in schools across the district isn’t currently on the table.

LGBTQ+ Students Face Hardships

     Today, LGBTQ+ students around the world face discrimination, harassment, violence and bullying based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

     “I’ve been called slurs,” sophomore Ray Leath said. “I’ve been told that my identity doesn’t make sense and been called a thing or an alien.”

     Leath recounted an event on a school bus during middle school.

     “When on the bus, there was the topic of the LGBTQ+ community,” Leath said.  “And when I joined in the debate as a queer kid, a dude said to my face that if he had two dads, he’d burn down his house. That made me fear for my life a bit until I realized he wouldn’t do anything.”

     A 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report by the Human Rights Campaign surveyed more than 12,000 LGBTQ+ students across the United States, with 26% of the students stating that they felt completely safe in their classrooms and 5% saying that all of the staff at their schools are accepting and inclusive.

       “If you’re impacting schools now, you’re impacting society,” Johnson said. “It won’t be taboo to have conversations about what’s political or what folks fear.”

     Slauson and Johnson both emphasized how people tend to fear what they don’t understand and that providing insight to a side of history not many people have heard from before can help change that.

     “People are very uncomfortable with things they don’t understand, and people do not understand LGBTQ+ because we don’t teach it,” Slauson said. “And there’s not a lot out there. People talk about it, but it’s not mainstream, and it should be.” 

Teachers Can Help

     GLSEN suggested methods that teachers could use in classrooms to combat homophobic and transphobic behavior, be more inclusince of queer students and educate students on LGBTQ issues including calling out homophobic behaviors and language in class and creating an opportunity to educate the students on the history of those derogatory behaviors as well as holding students accountable for their actions.

     “We have to hold one another accountable to learn about each other openly and willingly,” Johnson said.

     Ed Note, an organization that described itself as being dedicated to helping create a better education policy reported that California was the first state to require that LGBTQ+ history was taught in social studies classes as of 2011, followed by Colorado and Oregon in 2019, Illinois in 2020 and New Jersey in 2021, leaving 45 states without the requirement to teach LGBTQ+ history in schools.

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