Illinois Will Start Teaching LGBT History in Public Schools: 'An Inclusive Education System Can Create Change'

Illinois public schools will begin teaching LGBT history next year, after Governor J.B. Pritzer signed the Inclusive Curriculum Law on August 9.

Going into effect July 1, 2020, the measure was sponsored by State Rep. Anna Moeller (D—Elgin) and State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Lake Forest) and was supported by more than statewide and local 40 health, education and civil rights organizations.

The law will add to current curricula discussion of LGBT figures and events, like the Society for Human Rights—one of America's first gay rights groups, established in Chicago in 1924—and astronaut Sally Ride, the first woman in space and the first known lesbian astronaut, CNN reports.

lgbt history in Illinois public schools
Illinois has become the fifth state to pass a law mandating LGBT history be included in public school curricula. Getty Images

"We are excited to pass and enact the Inclusive Curriculum Law in 2019 [in] the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern LGBTQ equality movement," said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, in a statement. "As a former first grade teacher, I know how an inclusive education system can create change within a community."

The curriculum will also include coverage of women and minorities' contribution to American history, including the forceful removal and illegal deportation of Mexican-American U.S. citizens during the Great Depression.

Illinois is the fifth state to have enacted such a measure, after California in 2011 and Colorado, Oregon and New Jersey earlier this year.

On twitter, reaction to the law's signing was mostly positive.

"Some yay news for today," tweeted actor Mark Ruffalo.

"For everyone who is concerned about #LGBTQ history being studied in #Illinois: they are not talking about teaching separate classes," wrote another user. "They are just adding #LGBTQ contributions to history in their classes. History is not just the history of straight white men"

Some yay news for today 🏳️‍🌈🎉

— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) August 12, 2019

In Illinois, 88 percent of LGBT students report hearing homophobic remarks—but only only 24 percent said they were taught anything positive about LGBT people in classrooms.

According to GLSEN's 2017 National School Climate Survey, more than 60 percent of LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

The survey also found that nearly all (99 percent) of LGBT students had heard the work "gay" used as a slur, and 92 percent felt distressed at the use of such language. Almost 18 percent of LGBT students report they were prohibited from including LGBT topics in extracurricular activities at school.