BREAKING NEWS: California governor signs landmark LGBT education bill

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will fairly and accurately portray the LGBT civil rights movement and the historic contributions of the diverse LGBT community in social science instruction.

The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act (SB 48), by including fair and accurate information about the rich and diverse history of LGBT people in instructional materials, will enrich the learning experiences of all students and promote an atmosphere of safety and respect in California schools. SB 48 was authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and co-sponsored by Equality California and Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

Studies have shown that inclusion of LGBT people in instructional materials is linked to greater student safety and lower rates of bullying. In schools where the contributions of the LGBT community are included in educational instruction, bullying declined by over half and LGBT students were more likely to feel they have an opportunity to make positive contributions at school.

“Today marks a monumental victory for the LGBT civil rights movement as the contributions of diverse LGBT community will no longer be erased from history,” said Roland Palencia, Equality California executive director. “Thanks to the FAIR Education Act, California students, particularly LGBT youth, will find new hope and inspiration and experience a more welcoming learning environment that will embrace them.

“For decades, LGBT leaders have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all Californians. LGBT leaders were involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the farm workers’ movement, the women’s movement, have built health and human services institutions that now serve millions of Californians, and have contributed to the economic development of our state. We are truly grateful for the courageous leadership of Senator Leno, the LGBT Caucus, allied lawmakers, our members, and the entire LGBT community for making history and for promoting safety in our schools as students learn about our rich legacy,” he said.

The FAIR Education Act will bring classroom instruction into alignment with existing non-discrimination laws in California and would add the LGBT community to the existing list of underrepresented cultural and ethnic groups, which are covered by current law related to inclusion in textbooks and other instructional materials in schools.

“I am awed and humbled to be part of this historic moment. Today, we've written the latest chapter in the LGBT civil rights movement -- one that will now be presented fairly and accurately in California schools,” said Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “By signing the FAIR Education Act and ending the exclusion of the LGBT community from instructional materials, Governor Brown has realized the hopes of youth who have been fighting for safe and inclusive schools, where all students learn about our history and gain respect for each other’s differences as a result. This is a part of the American story that we can be proud to know all students will learn.”

“Today we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans,” Leno said. “Denying LGBT people their rightful place in history gives our young people an inaccurate and incomplete view of the world around them. I am pleased Governor Brown signed the FAIR Education Act and I thank him for recognizing that the LGBT community, its accomplishments and its ongoing efforts for first-class citizenship are important components of California’s history.”

“There is no room for discrimination of any kind in our classrooms, our communities or our state,” said Dean E. Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association. “We believe that curricula should address the common values of the society, promote respect for diversity and cooperation, and prepare students to compete in, and cope with a complex and rapidly evolving society. SB 48 does that by helping to ensure that curricular materials include the contributions of persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans to the development of California and United States.”

“We salute Governor Brown for signing, Senator Mark Leno for sponsoring, and the California legislature for passing this historic bill that reverses decades of censorship and discrimination against LGBT people in public school classrooms. Finally, all California students will learn about the contributions and accomplishments of LGBT people throughout history and into the present. LGBT students will be able to live openly and with pride, knowing that their state and their schools embrace them and recognize their worth. The Governor’s and legislature’s foresight will be repaid many times over when the next generation of California youth enter the world as healthier, more confident, and better-educated adults. This is the beginning of a new era of full inclusion and support for LGBT youth and their families in public schools, and I am proud that California is once again leading the way,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of NCLR.

California Assemblymember Toni Atkins applauded the new law.

"On the eve of San Diego’s huge annual LGBT Pride celebration, I am thrilled that the Governor has signed into law Senator Mark Leno’s FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Act, SB 48, of which I am honored to be a principal co-author," Atkins said. "The FAIR Education Act requires that the historical contributions of LGBT people be included in school instructional materials and will rectify the near-invisibility that our community has had in our schools.

"The FAIR Education Act will ensure that LGBT students know that people just like them have been an important part of our history, increasing their sense of self-worth. Accurate education also helps reduce stereotypes and negative views, which will lead to a reduction in bullying and harassment of LGBT students," she said.

"What a wonderful way to kick off Pride weekend! I am grateful to my colleagues in the state legislature and to the Governor for making this historic moment possible," Atkins said.

Among the diverse supporters of the FAIR Education Act include: Adolescent Health Working Group, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Anti-Defamation League, Arc and United Cerebral Palsy in California, Asian Americans for Civil Rights & Equality, Asian/Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy & Leadership, California Language Teachers Association, California Psychological Association, California Teachers Association, California Faith for Equality, Californians for Disability Rights, Inc., City of Oakland, City of West Hollywood, Disability Rights California, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Unified School District, Public Advocates, San Francisco Unified School District, Transgender Law Center, California Church IMPACT, Our Family Coalition, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, San Joaquin Valley Democratic Club, The Trevor Project, School for Integrated Academics & Technologies, and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.

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