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Illinois Senate approves bill for compulsory LGBT history in schools

Lydia Smith May 3, 2018

(Getty Images)

Illinois state senators have approved a bill requiring public schools to teach LGBT history.

The measure proposes both elementary and high schools teach the “role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the history of this country and this state.”

The bill, passed on Wednesday by 34 votes to 18, requires a portion of public school history courses to be allocated to the study of LGBT figures.

It must now pass the state House of Representatives before it can be rolled out.

Private and religious schools are not bound by the bill and individual school boards will be allowed to decide how much teaching time is spent on LGBT history.

Illinois State Senator Heather Steans, the sponsor of the bill, said: “By teaching students an inclusive curriculum, Illinois classrooms will promote acceptance and a more accurate portrayal of history.

“LGBT students also will learn about people who had some similar qualities to them and became historical role models.”

The bill has been welcomed by many for requiring schools to be more inclusive.

Brian Johnson, CEO of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois, said the bill would help expand schoolchildren’s knowledge of LGBT public figures and promote acceptance.

“People learn about Jane Addams, [the founder of social work as a job in the United States], for example, but don’t know she’s a lesbian,” he said.

“We don’t think there is true justice for the LGBT community unless we can learn about our history.”

(BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty)

The group added the state’s school code “already ensures inclusion in history curriculum of the contributions and experiences of other historically marginalised communities, including of people of colour, women, immigrant communities and people with disabilities.”

Some conservative and religious groups have criticised the legislation, however.

“The left’s motive is what it always is: it is to normalise homosexuality,” said Laurie Higgins, on behalf of the Illinois Family Institute.

Last year, California became the first state to use textbooks inclusive of LGBT history, in a move to promote inclusivity and acceptance.

In April, it was announced schools in Massachusetts will soon be able to teach LGBT history and health with the introduction of a new syllabus, which is expected to be rolled out in September.

The new English literature lessons will include LGBT poets and writers.

Two groups are behind the new curriculum – the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth and the Massachusetts Safe Schools Programme for LGBTQ Students.

More: LGBT history, US

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