LGBT history lessons heading for California classrooms

Lisa Leff
Associated Press

San Francisco — In second grade, California students will learn about families with two moms or two dads. Two years later, while studying how immigrants have shaped the Golden State, they will hear how New York native Harvey Milk became a pioneering gay politician in San Francisco.

The State Board of Education unanimously approved those changes in classroom instruction Thursday to comply with the nation’s first law requiring public schools to include prominent gay Americans and LGBT rights milestones in history classes.

The updates are part of a broader overhaul of California’s history and social science curriculum. During four hours of public testimony, dozens of speakers criticized the way the framework discusses Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Japan’s use of “comfort women” during World War II, but no one objected to the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Allyson Chiu, who just finished 11th grade at Cupertino High School, said the revisions would make LGBT students more comfortable.

“My classmates can solve quadratic equations or cite the elements on the periodic table. They can’t tell you who Harvey Milk was or the significance of the Stonewall Riots,” Chiu said.

The changes satisfy legislation passed five years ago that added LGBT Americans and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions schools are supposed to teach and must appear in K-8 textbooks.

The law also prohibited classroom materials that reflect adversely on gays or particular religions. Conservative opponents argued that it should be up to parents to decide how and at what age to broach sexual orientation with their children.