History classes in Illinois next year will be required to teach social studies classes about the “roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this state,” writes Cache Merriweather in Metea Media, the student newspaper at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois.
Many schools were already making an effort to include this aspect of our history in classes and, certainly, in clubs associated with acceptance of diversity among students in terms of sexual preference and gender identity. But House Bill 246, the Inclusive Curriculum Law, was signed by Gov JB Pritzker, a Democrat, on August 9, cementing this study into the state’s curriculum. The law takes effect on July 20, 2020, for the 2020-2021 school year.
“Metea has a widely diverse community of students when it comes to sexuality. With an afterschool club dedicated to the acceptance of different sexualities and genders as well as a platform in which students can share their thoughts on related topics, Metea is very much on the progressive side of things,” Ms Merriweather wrote.
“One of the best ways to overcome intolerance is through education and exposure to different people and viewpoints,” State Sen Heather Steans, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement on her website earlier this year. “An inclusive curriculum will not only teach an accurate version of history but also promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community.”
The law also requires all textbooks to “include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act and … be non-discriminatory as to any of the characteristics under the Act.”
“It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment,” Ms Steans said. “LGBTQ children and teenagers will also be able to gain new role models who share life experiences with them.”
Although the Illinois State Board of Education hasn’t had much of a chance yet to disseminate advice to school districts about what the law requires and some superintendents await guidance, at least one liked the idea behind it.
“We’ll have to wait and see what rules are involved,” Kewanee District 229 Superintendent Chris Sullens told the Star-Courier in that town, adding that he agreed with the sentiment about the need to cultivate tolerance. “That’s something we could use a lot more of today,” he was quoted as saying.