A school district in California formally approved a new LGBTI-inclusive curriculum following a public debate that went well past midnight.
Rocklin Unified School District, located in the northern half of the state, narrowly approved the new curriculum in a 3-2 vote on Wednesday (1 May).
The curriculum is for social studies and history classes in grades K-5, which consist of students aged 5 to 11.
Hundreds gathered at a Rocklin middle school gymnasium for the public debate. There were both supporters and detractors of the resolution. Supporters of the new curriculum wore yellow.
Those who do not support the new curriculum posited this age range is too young to learn about sexual orientation and gender identity. Some parents threatened not to send their students to school.
‘We believe that anyone who has made a significant contribution to society should, of course, be included in our history textbooks,’ said Rachel Crutchfield, spokeswoman for Informed Parents of Rocklin.
‘However, the concept of sexual orientation is far too complex of a topic for elementary-aged children to be introduced to at school. Children in second grade simply do not have the tools to comprehend sexuality, nor do we want them to. Let’s let kids be kids.’
One figure included in the new second grade textbook is lesbian NASA astronaut Sally Ride.
Adhering to state law
The new curriculum, known as Studies Weekly, complies with California’s FAIR Education Act. Passed in 2011, this statewide legislation compels public schools to include the contributions of LGBTI people, people wit disabilities, and people of color in lessons.
In November 2017, the state became the first to adopt new LGBTI-inclusive textbooks.
Many students spoke in favor of the new curriculum at the Wednesday debate, which didn’t end until 1 am.
‘All students should be able to see a role model in their textbook, and say, “A person like me did something great, and I can do something great too,”‘ said Whitney High School student Michael Whiteside.
Another Whitney High student, Rohan Sharma, explained that not including people’s sexuality, which were often a big part of their life, offered ‘an incomplete picture of history’.
The battle over education
Teaching about LGBTI history and figures is becoming a larger debate worldwide.
In the US, states beyond California, like New Jersey, are also adopting inclusive curricula.
This is not Rocklin’s first headline when it comes to LGBTI issues in their schools. Last year, a lesbian teacher in the district faced bullying for her sexuality, from students and more.