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LGBTQ history to be taught in all Illinois public schools starting next year

Tim Cook on the work still needed for LGBTQ equality
Tim Cook on the work still needed for LGBTQ equality 03:50

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill into law that will require all public schools in the state to teach history that includes the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The Inclusive Curriculum Law will go into affect for the 2020-2021 school year.

Four other states have passed laws like this: California, which passed similar legislation in 2011, and New Jersey, Colorado and Oregon, which all passed their legislation this year, according to Equality Illinois.

State Representative Anna Moeller and State Senator Heather Steans sponsored the Inclusive Curriculum Law, which amends the state school code to require all textbooks be non-discriminatory and include the roles of LGBTQ people in national and state history. The bill was an initiative of  Equality Illinois, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, and the Legacy Project. Forty other education, health care and civil rights groups in the state also backed the bill. 

"We are excited to pass and enact the Inclusive Curriculum Law in 2019 – the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern LGBTQ equality movement," Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson, who is a former first grade teacher, said he knows the importance of an inclusive approach to education. "By including information in public school curriculum about the contributions of LGBTQ people and affiliated historical events, we will get closer as a state to telling the whole story of our shared history," he said.

California Capitol Pride Flag
California was the first state to pass similar legislation in 2011. Since then, New Jersey, Colorado and Oregon have passed similar laws, requiring LGBTQ history be taught in public schools. AP

Johnson also thanked the bill's sponsors and Gov. Pritzker for signing it into law, "ensuring that LGBTQ youth will now see themselves in the history they are taught."

The law requires that all textbooks purchased and used by public schools "must include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act and must be non-discriminatory." Illinois public schools currently teach about the contributions and experiences of other historically marginalized communities, as ensured by the school code; that includes the historical contributions of people of color, women, immigrant communities and people with disabilities. Advocates say adding LGBTQ history to that list will benefit all students.

"An inclusive history will affirm for LGBTQ students that people just like them existed and made significant contributions to society," Johnson said. "This inclusive history will also benefit non-LGBTQ students, who would be taught the whole story about the achievements of LGBTQ people and the historical events that impacted all of us."

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