Representation matters in school curricula as it does in other parts of life. The 2012 FAIR Education Act is a California law that requires schools to teach about the roles and contributions of various groups, including both men and women, members of ethic and cultural groups, people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community.
In addition, it added sexual orientation to the list of prohibitions on educational materials that reflect adversely on people due to their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, ancestry or sexual orientation. And, the LGBT community was added to a list of groups that must be accurately portrayed in educational materials.
Does that mean LGBT themes will be taught to all children?
At some point in their education, children in California schools will be exposed to accurate, positive information about the LGBT community. However, the FAIR Education Act does not require that these issues be taught to every age group. It is up to local school districts to decide where best to include this information.
The California Department of Education notes that these issues might be relevant, for example, in fourth, eleventh and twelfth grade. However, school districts can determine when best to include this material.
When local school districts decide on how to include this material in the curriculum, they generally have held meetings with public participation.
What, specifically, does the law require?
The FAIR Education Act is now part of the California Education Code. The code requires all instructional materials to:
- Accurately and equitably portray the cultural and racial diversity of American society
- Demonstrate the contributions of males, females and minority groups to the development of California
- Emphasize people in varied, positive and contributing roles in order to constructively influence students’ school experiences
- Not contain inappropriate references to commercial brand names, products and corporate or company logos
Because of the addition of the FAIR Education Act, the California Education Code now specifically requires that schools offer a study of the roles and contributions of all the various protected groups, including people with disabilities, members of ethnic and cultural groups, and the LGBT community. It also prohibits teachers from giving instruction or sponsoring activities that promote discriminatory bias on the basis of these characteristics.
Educational materials are required to reflect this effort. School districts are to choose only educational materials that accurately portray these groups and their contributions, and which do not reflect adversely upon these groups.
If you are interested in how a particular group is going to be portrayed in your child’s school, you have the right to examine any educational materials used in that school.
Leigh Law Group represents students and parents in a wide variety of education law issues.