Why schools should honor LGBTQ+ History Month
September 19, 2022
The following article was written by Michael Tapia.
Among a number of important events recognized annually in the U.S., Canada and Australia in the month of October, LGBTQ+ History Month provides a great opportunity for educators to provide mirrors and windows for our diverse student bodies.
Created in 1994 by Missouri high school teacher Rodney Wilson, LGBTQ+ History Month recognizes important moments in the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their accomplishments and contributions to society. Included during this month-long recognition, National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11) not only encourages those who are LGBTQ+ to acknowledge their identities publicly but also celebrates the anniversary of the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that first took place in October 1987.
As administrators, one of our responsibilities is to ensure that our campuses are welcoming to all students and that our curriculum not only reflects our students’ intersecting identities but also provides insights and understanding of other cultures to those unfamiliar with them.
In the context of History and Social Science, SB 48, better known as the FAIR Education Act (effective in 2012), requires that among many diverse groups of people, LGBTQ+ Americans be included in K-12 History-Social Science instruction; the CDE released a new History-Social Science framework in 2016 to provide guidance in the implementation of this law. In 2017, the CDE also adopted 10 K-8 instructional materials programs to assist in the implementation of SB 48, though the LGBTQ+ information they provide is not as robust as it might otherwise be.
As educators, we want all of our students to be engaged and successful at school. However, if the school climate is not one that provides feelings of inclusivity and acceptance, opportunities for learning and achievement may be diminished for our marginalized students.
The 2019 GLSEN National School Climate Survey provided these troubling data:
  • Less than 20 percent of LGBTQ+ students were taught positive representations of LGBTQ+ people, history or events in their schools (similar data is present in the HRC California LGBTQ Youth Report 2017).
  • Only 8 percent reported receiving LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.
  • Just under half of students reported that they could find information about LGBTQ-related issues in the school library.
  • Just over half of students reported being able to access LGBTQ-related information via school computers.
In the same GLSEN survey, compared to students in school without an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, LGBTQ+ students in schools with LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum were: less likely to hear homophobic remarks, less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation, less likely to miss school in the past month, and more likely to report that their classmates were somewhat or very accepting of LGBTQ+ people. They also experienced lower levels of victimization related to their sexual orientation/gender expression and felt greater belonging to the school community.
The Equality California 2019 Safe and Supportive Schools Report Card announces only half of the school districts surveyed said that contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals are taught in government, history and social studies classes. In the California Healthy Kids Survey 2017-19 Biennial Report, LGBTQ+ students were more harassed/bullied than their straight peers by a 2-to-1 margin in grades 7, 9 and 11; LGBTQ+ students were almost four times more likely to consider suicide than their straight peers in these same grades.
If your school or district is interested in improving academic and mental health outcomes for all students, including those identifying as LGBTQ+, and seeks supplemental LGBTQ+ History Month resources, there are many available online.
At a time when the rights, recognition and acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth are under attack in many other parts of our country, we should be proud that California has some of the most supportive and LGBTQ-inclusive laws and policies for K-12 students; however, these canons can only make a difference if they’re implemented and enforced.
When asked, “Do you learn about LGBTQ+ people or issues in your classes at school?”, as appears on one of the California Healthy Kids Surveys administered in our schools, how will the students at your school site(s) respond?
Michael Tapia is a retired principal from Ventura USD.
Online Resources
Find lessons, articles, books and videos related to LGBTQ+ History Month on the ACSA Resource Hub at content.acsa.org/october-is-lgbtq-history-month-resources-for-educators/.
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