The Illinois Senate has approved a new bill requiring public schools to teach lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history in public schools. In a 34-18 vote on Wednesday, the Senate passed the bill, drafted by Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans.
Steans said the bill dovetails with a state law already on the books that requires public school students to learn the history of races and ethnicities.
“By teaching students an inclusive curriculum, Illinois classrooms will promote acceptance and a more accurate portrayal of history,” Steans said, according to the State Journal-Register. “LGBT students also will learn about people who had some similar qualities to them and became historical role models.”
Some education advocates and religious groups oppose the bill but for different reasons.
“We have a clear directive from our membership to oppose all curricular mandates that come before the General Assembly,” said Zach Messersmith, director of government relations for the Illinois Association of School Boards. “We believe that locally elected school boards should be able to determine curricula for their students as long as it meets Illinois Learning Standards.”
Christian groups like Concerned Christian Americans and the Illinois Family Institute cite their own religious objections and those of some students’ families.
“It is well known that the controversies of the transgender and homosexual movements are in direct contradiction to the clear Judeo-Christian beliefs of many in Illinois,” said Illinois Family Institute lobbyist Ralph Rivera, in a memo to legislators. “Schools should teach that we should be respectful of each student and each person. This is what we all agree on. However, schools should not be used to advocate for lifestyles that are against the religious values of the students and parents.”
The bill "requires every public elementary school and high school to include in its curriculum a unit of instruction studying the significant role of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in society. Specifies instruction requirements. Requires the regional superintendent of schools to monitor a school district's compliance with the curriculum requirements."
An amendment says that such instruction "provides that the State Board of Education may post on its publicly accessible Internet website recommended resources and education materials (rather than may prepare and make available to all school boards instructional materials) that may be used by a school board for development of the instruction."
Another amendment to the bill calls for all textbooks purchased with taxpayer money must include "a study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this state."
The bill, if passed by the House and signed into law, will take effect July 1, 2019.