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New law set to add gay history has some locally asking how

Reaction could be similar to sex ed addition to curriculum, board president says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A recently signed bill expected to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history makers in future California curriculum is receiving some mixed reactions in the Auburn area, ranging from joy to confusion. Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed the FAIR, or Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful, Education Act. The legislation provides a framework for including previously over looked members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in social science textbooks for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the office of Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who authored the bill. “In my own mind it’s about recounting a chapter of civil rights history and including those who helped move the effort for first class citizenship for all people forward,” Leno said. “This is a broad movement toward equality, a fascinating chapter of history. Who are the people who helped make it happen? How did it happen? Where is it going? These are all important questions. This is an attempt to fulfill the great promise of our nation’s constitution to treat everyone equally under the law.” According to Leno’s office, the bill does not spell out exactly how the new curriculum needs to be written in textbooks or taught in classrooms, and that will be up to the California State Board of Education and school districts. Curriculum for new textbooks in California is scheduled to be developed in the 2015/2016 fiscal year, and students won’t see the new information until after that time, according to Leno’s office. Ron Oates, president of the Placer Union High School District Board of Trustees, said this week while he hadn’t had a chance to read the legislation, he thought its direction was unclear. “I think because of the way this is being presented, by that I mean with virtually no details of implementation, you are going to see some parents be very upset about this, thinking this is something they need to discuss with their children rather than the schools,” Oates said. “In the younger grades especially you may see further withdrawal of children from the public school system.” Oates said he wasn’t surprised the state passed legislation that leaves its actual details up to discussion and wonders how the topic would even be breached with someone in a young grade like kindergarten. “If you look at probably the greatest technological advancement created in my lifetime was putting a man on the moon,” Oates said. “I don’t know what the sexual orientation was of the people involved in that, but I don’t know that it mattered. I don’t understand how this is supposed to be discussed.” Oates said he thinks trying to implement this in schools will be similar to when schools first started teaching sex education. “A lot of parents thought, ‘This is not to be taught in the classroom, this is to be taught at home,’” he said. “And this is just another area of that. I see that questions of who gets to teach what is going to raise its head again.” Hayley Hanley, who graduated from Placer High School last year after starting the Gay Straight Alliance club on the campus, and who is openly gay, said she rallied for the legislation before it was signed. “I know from growing up in Auburn, I didn’t have one class that taught me about gay history and so I didn’t know anything about it,” Hanley said. “I had to go learn on my own. It’s the same as teaching black history or Hispanic history. It should be out there.” Hanley said she isn’t sure how the community will react to the legislation, but she is hopeful. “I know that Auburn is a pretty conservative city,” she said “It might have a negative impact, but hopefully it won’t. Hopefully people will open their eyes to it and realize it’s a good thing and not a bad thing.” Hanley said she is looking forward to seeing names like Harvey Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who was openly gay and was killed by Dan White, a former city supervisor, in future textbooks. Christy Dyer, a teacher at Placer High School who acted as the adviser for the Gay Straight Alliance Club, said she thinks it’s sad that there needs to be legislation to include everyone equally in history, but she hopes the new information will encourage others. “When something comes out in a textbook … it sends a message to someone who might be from a marginalized group that their contributions are as important as anyone else’s, and it gives them a sense of self confidence,” Dyer said. “It gives them strength and it also helps with bullying.” Michele Schuetz, superintendent of the Auburn Union School District, said her reaction to the new legislation is that Auburn schools already try to give a full scope of history while being sensitive to students’ families. “We do within our curriculum cover all aspects of American history,” Schuetz said. “Part of that discussion can be religion, it can be anything. At this point I think our teachers do discuss issues that come up in the classroom directly, trying to be very respectful to family beliefs, but we want to make sure we share the complete history of our country.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcoutnrymedia.com