Illinois public schools will be required to teach about the contributions of LGBTQ people across the state and the country — under a new law approved by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The law, signed by Pritzker last week, mandates that the history curriculum in schools across the state include lessons spotlighting noteworthy lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, according to the Chicago Tribune.
As part of the new curriculum — set to launch in 2020 — the LGBTQ-focused lessons must be taught before the students reach the eighth grade, according to the report.
All textbooks “must include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act and must be non-discriminatory as to any of the characteristics under the Act,” the bill states.
“One of the best ways to overcome intolerance is through education and exposure to different people and viewpoints,” Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago, one of the bill’s Senate sponsors, said in a news release obtained by the Tribune. “An inclusive curriculum will not only teach an accurate version of history but also promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community.”
State Rep. Anna Moeller said in a release that Illinois is the fifth state in the country to adopt a law of this nature.
“The new law’s goal is simple: to understand that people from different backgrounds deserve the same opportunity to learn and be recognized for their contributions in society as everyone else,” Moeller said.
The curriculum will include topics ranging from the country’s first gay rights organization — the Society for Human Rights, launched in Chicago in 1924 — to a spotlight on Sally Ride, the first US woman in space who was also gay, Unilad reported.
The civil rights advocacy group Equality Illinois supported the bill, noting that it would have a “positive effect on students’ self-image and make their peers more accepting.”
In a statement, Victor Salvo, executive director of the Chicago-based Legacy Project, which fosters an appreciation for the contributions of LGBTQ individuals, called the new legislation life-saving.
“To deny a child information that could give them hope, that could help them feel less alone, that could help them feel like they mattered — while at the same time condemning them to hearing bigoted slurs in the hallways of their schools — is a cruelty that every feeling adult has a responsibility to stop,” he said.
The state’s public schools are already required to teach students about the history of minority ethnic groups, including African Americans and Hispanics, according to the Tribune.
The LGBTQ legislation made it through the House by a vote of 60-42 and 37-17 in the Senate.
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