What would this bill do?
This bill is SB 48, commonly known as the FAIR act. It would amend the state's education code, stating that LGBT people should be added to the state's list of underrepresented groups in history classes. At the same time it also spells out other guidelines for underrepresented groups. The bill says textbooks and instruction should specifically include contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans.
The LGBT component is the thing getting the most press. Is that because that is specifically called out in the bill or is it because it's more controversial?
More of the emphasis is on LGBT historical contributions. The other part of the bill is basically spelling out, "let's not refer to African Americans in history as blacks or Native Americans as Indians."
California would be the first state in the country to allow public school kids to learn from curricula and textbooks that point out the contributions of gays and lesbians.
And it wouldn't just be allowed, it would be mandated. Is that correct?
It's mandated, but it's a little tricky, because the bill says the state has to adopt textbooks and curricula that include LGBT contributions in our history, but it's up to school districts if they want to use them and how much. So ultimately, school districts will get to decide how they go about using these teaching materials.
But the district officials I've spoken with say this would give them permission to talk about the topic. Even if they don't necessarily use the textbook, they have permission to talk about the ongoing gay rights movement, about people like Harvey Milk or Walt Whitman, for example.
So currently, if a teacher does want to discuss LGBT topics in class, are they specifically disallowed or are they such hot-button issues that teachers don't want to go there?
They're such hot-button issues that people don't want to go there. I think it's really frowned upon; I think teachers feel they don't have the authority to talk about these issues. And we've seen cases in school districts where a teacher gets in trouble for talking about someone like Harvey Milk. If this bill becomes law, it give educators that freedom to discuss these things in class.
On the bill's supporters and opponents