Illinois state senators have passed a bill requiring LGBT history to be taught in public schools.
The bill proposes that history lessons on Illinois and the U.S. more widely must include the contributions made by the LGBT community. Schoolbooks bought by the state must “accurately portray the diversity of our society,” the bill stated.
Every public elementary and high school must teach children about “the significant role of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in society,” the bill's sponsors wrote. Private and religious schools are not bound by the bill. The regional superintendents would be required to ensure the rule is enforced.
Senator Heather Steans put forward Senate Bill 3249, which was passed by 34 votes to 18. It must now pass the state House before it can be rolled out.
Steans told Ilnews.org: “What we find is that there’s an enormous drop, 36 percent drop, in people feeling bullied and getting derogatory remarks made about them when they’re included in the curriculum.”
The measure mirrors requirements that children learn the history of African Americans in Illinois and the U.S., and ethnic groups including Polish, German, Irish, Bohemian, Russian, Hispanic, and Asian Americans.
Those opposed to the bill cited concerns around religious views. Sen. Chuck Weaver, who voted against the bill, said: “folks who may have a difference of opinion with regard to how this is handled on a curriculum basis.”
Zach Messersmith, director of government relations for the Illinois Association of School Boards, argued local school boards may take issue with being told what to teach their respective pupils.
Senator Heather Steans and The Illinois Association of School Boards did not respond to a request for comment.
The vote comes after California last year became the first U.S. state to approve LGBT-inclusive textbooks in primary schools.