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Representation in Our Schools

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

LGBTQ+ education is now mandatory in 4 US States. How are educators preparing?

Written By: Lauren Fraulo, Senior Director of Education and Program Development

Here, at the Mission Society of New York City, our Education and Program Development teams have always emphasized the creation of inclusive curriculum and instructional practices. It is our goal as educators for curricula to reflect the backgrounds and experiences of our participants. In the hopes of furthering these efforts, we stay up-to-date on changes that are happening in classrooms across the country.

Recently, New Jersey and Illinois joined California and Colorado as states that require LGBTQ+ history and perspectives in curriculum and instruction in public schools. While the legislation in these states differ in specificity, they all emphasize the importance of teaching curricula that is more reflective of the roles and contributions of a diverse group of people. New York legislators are currently working towards passing their own law, which would require schools to include the “historic treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals” in curriculum.

The new laws are a positive indicator of change; however, schools and educators are facing challenges with implementation. In many situations, little work has been done to establish learning standards around LGBTQ+ education. Lack of support, lack of training opportunities, and a lack of resources around LGBTQ+ curriculum materials present obstacles for many educators.

While these laws specifically address LGBTQ+ history, they are part of a larger discussion about the creation of curricula which accurately reflects the contributions of a wide variety of individuals and groups. As educators, it is helpful to think of a curriculum as “a window and a mirror” (GLSEN). As a mirror, the curriculum should reflect the experiences of the students in our classrooms. As a window, it offers opportunities for students to understand the perspectives of individuals with different identities.

When planning, educators should ask themselves, “How is the curriculum serving as both a window and a mirror?”

If you would like to learn more about how to create inclusive curriculum, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network has created an “Inclusive Curriculum Guide” for educators, which is available here.

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