California’s Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed into law landmark legislation that would require the historical contributions of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans to be included in history lessons and classroom textbooks.
The bill — known as the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Act — would would bring classroom instruction into alignment with existing non-discrimination laws in California and would add LGBT to the existing list of underrepresented cultural and ethnic groups, which are covered by current law related to inclusion in textbooks and other instructional materials.
Brown issued a statement in which he called the legislation an “important step forward for our state.”
“History should be honest,’’ Brown said. “This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books.”
The new law will require the California Board of Education and local school districts to adopt textbooks and other teaching materials that cover the contributions and roles of sexual minorities, as early as the 2013-2014 school year.
“Today we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans,” said Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author.
“Denying LGBT people their rightful place in history gives our young people an inaccurate and incomplete view of the world around them. I am pleased Governor Brown signed the FAIR Education Act and I thank him for recognizing that the LGBT community, its accomplishments and its ongoing efforts for first-class citizenship are important components of California’s history.”
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. The bill was co-sponsored by Equality California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, a conservative family group that opposed the measure, said the bill constitutes “sexual brainwashing” and “indoctrination.”
“We strongly urge loving parents to rescue their children by permanently removing them from government schools and placing them in the safe havens of church schools or homeschooling.” Thomasson said.
The new law gives local school boards discretion on how to implement the requirements, and does not specify a grade level for the instruction to begin.
The legislation is expected to have impact beyond California’s borders. Since the state is a major purchaser of educational textbooks, national book publishers often print books tailored for California curriculum that other states utilize.