Democrats want gays in California textbooks
April 1, 2011
Democrats in Sacramento intend to introduce legislation requiring California public schools to teach about the contributions of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans. [LA Times]
A similar bill was passed five years ago, only to be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, activists are more hopeful for passage with Jerry Brown in office, though the current governor has yet to take a public position on the issue.
This new attempt has divided religious leaders, educators and lawmakers and prompted accusations from opponents that those behind the effort seek to impose their values on the state and on students and parents who find same-sex relationships objectionable.
If implemented, the measure, which would revise social science textbooks, could have effects beyond California. The state is a major purchaser of educational texts, and publishers often produce books tailored to California that other states use as well.
The proposal would require that social science texts and other instruction include “a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans … to the economic, political and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.”
Each school district would decide which age groups received such instruction.
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) who introduced the bill, SB 48, said it addresses a glaring oversight in educating young people that has led to harassment of gays by their classmates.
In an emotional plea for the bill at a recent legislative hearing, Leno invoked the name of Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old student from Tehachapi who committed suicide last year after facing anti-gay bullying at school.
Although some teachers have testified against the change, it is supported by the California Teachers Association and the Los Angeles Unified School District.