Starting in the 2020 school year, New Jersey will become the second state to mandate instruction recognizing the LGBTQIA community and its cultural contributions, EdSurge reports, noting that Robbinsville Schools is among those reacting to the new law by examining current curriculum for topic gaps and seeking resources.
California’s FAIR Education Act requires elementary students to study local families and communities, in addition to mandating students learn about LGBTQ issues and disabilities alongside information about civil rights or other social protest movements.
Illinois students will also be required to learn LGBTQ history starting in July 2020, and Equality Illinois, the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights advocacy organization, says curriculum can positively affect students’ self-images and help with peer acceptance.
As new laws require the LGBTQ community be represented in all-inclusive curricula, schools face the challenge of how to meet those needs. Adapting class culture and developing inclusive curriculum isn’t easy, especially when so few inclusive materials exist in the first place. Some teachers are working around the conundrum by integrating same-sex couples into math problems or using LGBTQ advocates in history lessons.
For example, Bayard Rustin, a lead organizer of the March on Washington in 1963 and friend of Martin Luther King Jr., was openly gay and later became a gay rights activist. As states start including LGBTQ information in curricula, such facts will no longer remain unmentioned. Though few states require teachers to include LGBTQ information in lessons, developing curriculum that creates inclusion may go a long way toward improving tolerance.
Despite new mandates, a 2017 National School Climate Survey showed LGBTQ victimization is not decreasing as quickly as it had in the past — and in some cases, it’s getting worse. Some of the findings include homophobic remarks leveling off after years of improvement. It also shows more students hear derogatory remarks about transgender people. Most LGBTQ students have experienced harassment or assault. Seven in 10 LGBTQ students were verbally harassed based on gender expression or gender.
In perhaps the most notable case, Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was brutally murdered in Laramie in October 1998. His ashes were interred at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018.