EXPLAINED: California’s FAIR Education Act
July 14, 2011 by Bryan
Signed into law today by California Governor Jerry Brown, California’s FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful) Education Act aims to fairily and accurately portray the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights movement and the historic contributions of the diverse LGBT community in social science instruction in California schools.
SB 48 was authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and co-sponsored by Equality California and Gay-Straight Alliance Network. Side note – there is a great video at the bottom of this post of Senator Leno battling it out against Randy Thomasson of “SaveCalifornia.com” who seems a bit obsessed with the sex lives of gays.
So now with The FAIR Education Act being signed into law, there are some questions as to exactly what this law will do. Here are some answers…
When will the law be implemented?
While the law goes into effect January 2012, due to California’s current budget situation, new textbooks won’t be printed until roughly 2015. In the meantime, it will be up to the state board of education, teachers and individual school districts across California to choose age appropriate lessons for each grade level. Many school districts in the state already provide supplemental learning materials that meet this requirement and school districts are free to begin instruction prior to the official implementation date.
Why is the FAIR Education Act important?
While LGBT people have made significant contributions to all aspects of society a range of civil rights movements and the movement for LGBT equality, this information is frequently excluded from social studies instruction–and that exclusion plays a direct role in the bullying and harassment that has led to an ever increasing rate of suicide among our youth. It’s been shown that by including fair and accurate history lessons that there are lower rates of bullying and increased student safety as students start letting go of their preconceived stereotypes and start learning the struggle of, and the pivotal role that LGBT Americans have played, throughout history. Just think how far we’ve come: from a moment in time when statute described homosexuality as being a felony in all 50 states to have consensual relations between two adults, to full marriage equality in a number of states. How did it happen? Who were the individuals that helped make that happen? From pre-Stonewall to today, these are lessons that need to be taught.
What exactly will be taught and does the new law dictate lesson plans?
No, The FAIR Education Act does not specifically dictate exactly what the curriculum will be. It was left quite open on purpose to let the local school districts decide exactly what goes into the curriculum.
What ages will this be taught to? What kinds of things, aside from Harvey Milk, what will be included?
This will be included in K-12 in an age appropriate fashion. Curriculum will be decided by the State Board of Education and individual lesson plans will be decided by the local school district and teachers. The law does not specifically dictate exactly what the curriculum would be.
Senator Leno’s office had this to say about The FAIR Education Act:
Research indicates that students who learn about LGBT people find their school environments more accepting of LGBT youth. Students are also more likely to report that their LGBT peers are treated fairly at school – and that other types of peer-to-peer disrespect also declines – when LGBT people and issues are included in instructional materials.
In addition to including the role and contributions of LGBT Americans in educational materials, Senate Bill 48 ensures that the contributions of disabled people are included. The bill also adds sexual orientation to the state’s existing anti-discrimination protections that prohibit bias in school activities, instruction and instructional materials.
Equality California’s Executive Director Roland Palencia said the following:
We did it! Governor Jerry Brown has just signed the FAIR Education Act (SB 48, Leno) into law. Together we have made certain that students across California will learn about the many contributions of the LGBT civil rights movement. This bill will also create a more welcoming environment for LGBT youth, as their rich history and legacy will be recognized.
Time after time, negative stereotypes of LBGT people have been used by our opponents as a weapon to roll back our rights. Today, the inclusion of LGBT people in the school curriculum will help to tell the truth about our place in history and about our contributions.