Students in Illinois public schools will learn about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in state and national history after approval today of the Inclusive Curriculum Law by Gov. Pritzker, according to Equality Illinois.
Starting with the 2020-21 school year, the Inclusive Curriculum Law — House Bill 246 — will ensure the inclusion of the contributions of LGBTQ people in the history curriculum taught in Illinois public schools. Illinois is the fifth state to enact such legislation, after California in 2011 and New Jersey, Colorado and Oregon in 2019.
Sponsored by State Rep. Anna Moeller ( D-Elgin ) and State Sen. Heather Steans ( D-Chicago ), the Inclusive Curriculum Law is an initiative of Equality Illinois, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, and the Legacy Project and is supported by more than forty education, health care, and civil rights organizations across Illinois.
"We are excited to pass and enact the Inclusive Curriculum Law in 2019 - the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern LGBTQ equality movement," said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois. "As a former first grade teacher, I know how an inclusive education system can create change within a community. By including information in public school curriculum about the contributions of LGBTQ people and affiliated historical events, we will get closer as a state to telling the whole story of our shared history.
"We thank Gov. Pritzker for signing the Inclusive Curriculum Law and ensuring that LGBTQ youth will now see themselves in the history they are taught," Johnson said. "We also thank Rep. Moeller and Sen. Steans for their bold leadership and advocacy during the two years they led the legislative efforts to pass the Inclusive Curriculum Law."
"This legislation exemplifies a demonstrated commitment to build and nurture an inclusive and supportive environment in the educational system in Illinois," said Mary F. Morten, Board Chair of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, a program of the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago. "Gaining a greater knowledge and understanding of the contributions of various underrepresented communities benefits all of us. As we move toward what true diversity, equity and inclusion means in our school communities, this is a critical and vital step in the right direction."
"We applaud and thank Gov. Pritzker for approving this law and for his commitment to LGBTQ inclusion. Illinois is on the right side of history with this important, life-saving law," said Victor Salvo, Executive Director of the Legacy Project. "In our work, we know how difficult it can be to break through the redaction of LGBTQ people from humanity's story and the consequences of that redaction on our kids. To deny a child information that could give them hope, that could help them feel less alone, that could help them feel like they mattered—while at the same time condemning them to hearing bigoted slurs in the hallways of their schools—is a cruelty that every feeling adult has a responsibility to stop."
The Illinois School Code presently ensures inclusion in history curriculum of the contributions and experiences of other historically marginalized communities, including people of color, women, immigrant communities, and people with disabilities.
An inclusive curriculum can have positive, affirming benefits and help counteract some disturbing trends. Sadly, in schools across Illinois and the United States, LGBTQ students are told, through bullying, harassment, and exclusion, that they do not belong. These conditions have created a school environment where LGBTQ students are forced to hide their identity simply to protect themselves.
According to GLSEN'S 2017 School Climate Survey, 88% of LGBTQ students in Illinois have heard the word "gay" as a slur. Only 24% of LGBTQ students in Illinois were taught anything positive about LGBTQ people in classrooms.
"An inclusive history will affirm for LGBTQ students that people just like them existed and made significant contributions to society," said Johnson. "This inclusive history will also benefit non-LGBTQ students, who would be taught the whole story about the achievements of LGBTQ people and the historical events that impacted all of us."
About Equality Illinois
At Equality Illinois we envision a fair and unified Illinois where everyone is treated equally with dignity and respect and where all people live freely regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We work hard to promote legislation to protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning ( LGBTQ ) individuals; maintain the visibility of LGBTQ issues; oppose legislation which seeks to limit the civil rights of the LGBTQ community; and expand statewide grassroots support.
—From a press release