Metro Weekly

Illinois could make teaching LGBTQ history mandatory in public schools

A new bill would require Illinois schools to teach a unit on LGBTQ history and social contributions

Illinois State Capitol — Photo: Daniel X. O’Neil / Flickr

A plan for Illinois schools to teach LGBTQ history has moved closer to becoming reality, after advancing through the state Senate this week.

SB3249 was endorsed in an 8-2 vote by the Senate Education committee and would make Illinois the second state after California to require schools to include an LGBTQ education plan.

The bill would require a unit on “the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State” to be taught at all public elementary and high schools.

Brian C. Johnson, CEO of the LGBTQ civil rights organization Equality Illinois, said in a statement that the bill would have a positive effect on students’ self-image and lead to a more inclusive school environment.

“The teaching of history has been set a little too straight,” Johnson said. “LGBTQ identities have been erased by omission. Now, it is time for our public schools in Illinois to tell the whole story.”

According to The Associated PressJohnson said the legislation would be consistent with current education policies that require units on contributions of other minority groups, including Hispanics, Asian-Americans and African-Americans.

Sen. Heather Steans, who sponsored the bill, said that a gay-inclusive curriculum would “provide positive reinforcement for LGBTQ students by highlighting the important contributions of other LGBTQ individuals.”

“It is my hope that educating students about the important roles LGBTQ individuals have played in our country will help them develop a deeper understanding of history and a more compassionate view of their peers,” Steans said.

The bill outlines that school boards would determine how much time would be spent on the subject and establishes that it must reinforce that students, “regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, have a right to be treated with civil, legal, and human rights, and as full human beings above all else.” The legislation would also require schools to use more inclusive and “non-discriminatory” textbooks in the future.

However, Conservative groups are not happy with the bill, with many calling it a “costly and ideologically driven mandate.”

“The left’s motive is what it always is: it is to normalize homosexuality,” Laurie Higgins with the Illinois Family Institute, a Christian organization, said in a statement, adding, “What right have arms of the government (i.e., public schools) to treat the beliefs of Leftists on those two issues — homosexuality and opposite-sex impersonation — as if they were objectively true?”

Johnson said that LGBTQ youth are aware that negative voices will dispel their sexuality, and hopes this measure counteracts that by giving them a chance to find role models and learn about their history, which he says is important for all students, gay or straight.

“We think all students are better off when we teach them the full breadth of history,” he said. “It makes them more likely to understand that a diverse cast has contributed to our society.”

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