Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, public schools in Illinois will be required to teach a new history curriculum that includes the contributions of LGBTQ people across the state and the country. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law last week, which was previously passed in the Illinois House in March and the Senate in May. The new Inclusive Curriculum Law was sponsored by State Representative Anna Moeller and State Senator Heather Steans. It amends the state school code and requires all textbooks to be non-discriminatory and include the roles of LGBTQ people in history.
“A lot of the curricular resources will be available for free, and there will be deliberate work done with districts to make this as easy as possible for teachers,” Moeller said. The bill came about as an initiative of Equality Illinois, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, and the Legacy Project. Mike Ziri, the public policy director of Equality Illinois, said about the new law that “we hope this will show LGBTQ young folks that people like them have made great contributions to history and society.”
According to a 2017 report from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) only about 24% of students in Illinois are taught about LGBTQ people in a positive light. And more than 80% of LGBTQ students reported to have heard “gay” being used in a negative way or other homophobic remarks in school. Ziri believes that this law will “also benefits non-LGBTQ students who will learn that a diverse group of people have contributed to society, and we should celebrate and include that diversity today.”
Illinois is now the fifth state to pass a law similar to this. California was the first in 2011 and New Jersey, Colorado, and Oregon passed their LGBTQ-inclusive legislation earlier this year.