SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS — Gov. JB Pritzker signed a law Friday that will require LGBTQ history to be taught in schools starting next year. Students in Illinois public schools will now learn about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in state and national history.
Sponsored by State Rep. Anna Moeller ( D-Elgin ) and State Sen. Heather Steans ( D-Chicago ), the Inclusive Curriculum Law is an initiative of Equality Illinois, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, and the Legacy Project and is supported by more than forty education, health care, and civil rights organizations across Illinois.
Starting with the 2020-21 school year, the Inclusive Curriculum Law — House Bill 246 — will ensure the inclusion of the contributions of LGBTQ people in the history curriculum taught in Illinois public schools. Illinois is the fifth state to enact such legislation, after California in 2011 and New Jersey, Colorado and Oregon in 2019.
Prior to the bill’s passage, the Illinois school code included a history curriculum that consisted of historically marginalized communities, including people of color, women, immigrant communities and people with disabilities.
A 2015 survey cited by the office of State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) showed nearly 70 percent of LGBTQ students in Illinois have been verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation. Steans was the sponsor of the bill.
“It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment,” Steans said. “LGBTQ children and teenagers will also be able to look to new role models who share life experiences with them.”
According to Capitol News Illinois, the bill will not have “any immediate impact”, saying it “only applies to textbooks purchased through the state’s textbook block grant program, which has not received any funding for the last five years, and which the State Board of Education has not requested funding for in the upcoming budget”.
Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, argued schools and teachers already struggle to keep up with the growing list of mandates applied to them, and the state should not be adding another, especially one that some might find inappropriate.
The bill will take effect July 1, 2020.