A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
The start of 2012 saw a historic education change come into force in the US state of California. The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act – also known as Senate Bill 48 – requires that LGBTs’ historical contributions be taught in schools.
According to the Bay Area Reporter, the new law was authored by gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in July. It’s set to take effect next week, but Tina Jung, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education, said the state Board of Education couldn’t review new curriculum until 2015.
Essentially the argument is that because the state is bust financially, that’s the earliest they can look at this with new textbooks rolling out between 2017 and 2019. This – you might think- falls outside of the statute but assuming that the Board of Education does not adopt new textbooks/instructional materials they are not in breach of the statute (although they re skating on thin ice). There’s no such wiggle room in the phraseology of other sections and it’s clear that Californian schools and their teachers cannot discriminate their activities on the basis of sexuality (and other characteristics such as race).
One of the tensions which the California Department of Education seems to be hoping people won’t notice is that: ‘Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.’
That seems pretty clear to me, and I’m a bit confused how that can be done without new instructional material (and arguably textbooks). I’m no US attorney but surely a state lacking finance does not negate legal responsibilities? I’d be curious for input from US readers.
Of course, the measure was argued against (ironically) on the grounds of cost by Republicans and they also opposed the ‘indoctrination’ of their children with radical notions such as not discriminating against someone because of their race, sexuality or gender (see the campaign ad on the right). In truth, despite the pitching of this measure (by both sides) it’s actually quite gentle and sensible legal measure, but the real challenge comes in how it is now implemented. A legal challenge on implementation from the left would be a gift to Republicans in an election year, enabling them to point to tax dollars being diverted from something uncontroversial (e.g. roads) to something that is (i.e evil homo indoctrination). Other than Democrats, whatever happens, the real losers are potentially the kids who risk being failed by their political leaders and who might not get the education they deserve – and should now legally expect.
A potential solution would be for charities, campaign organisations and worthy individuals to stump up for new textbooks now. Tell the people the bill Ms Jung, and let’s get raising the money. There’s a lot of wealthy homosexuals in California – this would surely be a good use of some of their money.