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  • Kayla Arch

The Importance of Inclusion: The Role of LGBTQ+ in Public Education

When going through public elementary, middle, and even high school, I never questioned the education I received, whether the information I was being told was accurate, or if it was inclusive. Maybe it was my ignorance and it should have crossed my mind, or it was because I grew up in the state of New Jersey. Although only just passed in 2019, New Jersey became only the second state, behind California, to pass an LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum bill into law. Now, as a student at the University of Maryland who mainly attends government and policy-based classes that focus on social issues, my professors have tried and mostly succeeded in including the perspectives of minority and LGBTQ+ students. This form of inclusion is vital in receiving a truly proper education. However, recent legislation regarding the exclusion of LGBTQ+ teachings in school curriculums is becoming a more prevalent issue today.

It was only in 2011 that California became the first state to adopt legislation that required social studies’s curriculum to include LGBTQ+ figures and their contributions. The Fair Accurate Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act was the first piece of legislation in California and the nation to be passed in regards to an inclusive education. Since then, six states, including New Jersey, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Illinois, and Connecticut, have passed laws that explicitly require the inclusion of LGBTQ+ into the curriculum. It has been proven that when LGBTQ+ students learn about LGBTQ+ community in their curriculum, whether in either social studies or sexual education, it helps improve their mental health while simultaneously removing stigma and lower the chance of victimization. When LGBTQ+ students do not feel safe, comfortable, or supported in their learning environments, they are more likely to either miss school -- or even drop out. These seven states understand that a proper and inclusive education does not only benefit LGBTQ+ students during a time when they are most developing, it also decreases the amount of violence and bullying against these students as well.

The importance of having an LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum also plays an important role in receiving a proper sexual education. With only 29 out of 50 states requiring a proper sexual education, with the majority of the rest of the states stressing abstinence, students are not receiving the proper education they deserve. States like Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas require that when referring to LGBTQ+ during sexual education, it must have a negative connotation. In addition to this blatant discrimination, Florida’s infamous “Parental Rights in Education” Act, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, states that "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards." Signed into law by Florida Governor Rob DeSantis in the spring of 2022, the language of this bill is vague and will hurt students, preventing them from learning about the history and culture of this community, simply because DeSantis believes that teaching students to be “whatever they want to be” is “inappropriate.”

In addition to this, Tennessee currently has a bill, HB 0800, in the House that, if passed, would prohibit textbooks and instructional materials “that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender issues or lifestyles.” The reasoning behind the bill is because these lifestyles go against core Christian values, but this discrimination should be unconstitutional due the separation of Church and State as stated in the Bill of Rights. The ability to love an individual should not be restricted by politics, the law, or a religion. These pieces of legislation mentioned restrict the lives of over 7% of the American population, and will only hinder the education that students receive in these states.

In order to have a world where acceptance is abundant, we must start with our education system across America. The right to love whoever you want should be a right granted to all, and individuals going to school should never have to feel that the way they love others is wrong. Whether students are a part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, everyone deserves the right to an inclusive education and to feel seen in learning. Rather than deeming the teachings of LGBTQ+ sexual education or history as “woke gender ideology,” it is time to start viewing it as receiving a well rounded education. I believe that it is very unfortunate that we continue to live in a society that questions if certain individuals deserve fundamental human rights. In order to live in a world where all individuals are tolerated, regardless of their sexual orientation, we need to start teaching young kids about the history and beauty of all groups of identities in America.


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