The education policy committee in the California State Senate will hear testimony today for and against the FAIR Education Act, introduced by State Senator Mark Leno. This act would, “prohibit discriminatory education and ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are fairly and accurately included in instructional materials,” according the the press release from the GSA Network and Equality California, the two sponsors of the bill.
Basically, LGBT people and historic events in the LGBT movement would legally have to show up in school textbooks. In what capacity? Leno hopes that the LGBT struggle will show up in textbooks as a civil rights movement, highlighting important events, like when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from their list of mental illnesses in 1972. "Imagine how different the interaction among students would be if, in an age-appropriate fashion - this issue of homosexuality and this issue of the LGBT community is all a part of a civil rights movement. Not unlike other civil rights movements,” said Leno.
"I think we’ve all been horrified by this ongoing phenomenon, if not crisis, of bullying going on within our schools, leading to tragic suicides among our LGBT youth in the past couple of years,” said Leno. “And it seems to me that as human beings, it’s not uncommon that we fear and dislike that which is uncommon or unknown to us.”
Leno contends that dealing with this fear of the unknown could help eliminate peer violence in schools. “If we were to better educate our students so that there would be more familiarity with those who are different from the societal norm, children would grow up with a more understanding and accepting attitude, and there would be more respect from students on school campuses,” he said.
According to a GSA Fact Sheet, the existing law requires that men, women, black Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Island people, and other ethnic groups to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, be equally represented in curriculum. The fact sheet reads additionally, "The current law prohibits instruction or school-sponsored activities that reflect adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, ability, national origin, or ancestry."
The California Teachers’ Association is in support of the bill, and Leno says he is hopeful that it will pass out of committee tomorrow and then head to the Senate floor. If Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill at the end of the summer, it will go into effect January 1, 2012.