III. Current Context (for more recent info, be sure to check out current action alerts at URL: http://www.personproject.org/Alerts/States/California/list.html)

Although Commission documents always specifically state the importance of respecting different learning styles and backgrounds when designing educational materials, this language of diversity rarely explicitly includes sexual orientation. When it does, as in the Health Frameworks, that language rarely translates into concrete and specific actions. Thanks to years of work by education equity activists in this state, it can no longer be claimed that California's educational policy makers lack the necessary documentation regarding the need for inclusion of LGBT information in the curriculum. However, the dismal truth is that, for the most part, they lack sufficient conviction to do the right thing re LGBT inclusion. It can be further said that some lack the requisite courage, and even that a few are adamantly biased against doing the right thing on this issue. As a result, unfortunately, classroom materials devoid of fair and accurate discussion of LGBT information continue to be adopted in this key state in all subject areas.

Of the 29 letters received by the Commission regarding the Health Adoption, SIXTEEN were general letters in favor of supporting inclusion of information regarding LGBT issues (the others consisted of 3 from publishers regarding their programs and 10 from the public with specific comments on resources; thus FAVORABLE comments were clearly in the majority). NONETHELESS, the materials proposed by the Commission contain no mention in texts of LGBT matters, and only passing mention in a teacher's resource. In fact, the 6-8th grade materials merely stress ABSTINENCE rather doing a serious job of addressing sexuality. This while the Commission purports to have a concern for cultural diversity and multiculturalism AND with alignment with the Framework, which IS an LGBT-inclusive one.

In Los Angeles, the following programs are in effect: a G/L Education Commission has been established by the school board. Contact information is below. There is a high school, the Eagle School, for G/L students. The G/L Ed. Commission organized a successful LGBT high school prom in 1994 (and in 1995 a similar prom was successfully held in Hayward, CA in Alameda County, San Francisco Bay Area). LAUSD observes National Coming Out Day and has an officially approved homophobia-prevention curriculum (developed by GLAAD/LA, contact information below).

The California Council for the Social Studies is somewhat supportive of, or perhaps that would more accurately be put as receptive to, our concerns. Contact them at 1255 Vista Grande, Millbrae, CA 94030-2213, phone/fax=415-692-4830. They've had a gay man as president (although it is not clear he was really out, and he's now dead; he was openly supportive of AIDS education), welcomed a LGBT literature table at one of their annual conferences, and have had some workshops on LGBT stuff at the same annual conference (the workshops were well-attended and well-received) Their 1996 conference is at the Long Beach Hyatt Regency March 6-10, 1996 and the 1997 one will be held at the Sacramento Hyatt Regency March 6-9, 1997.

On the bad news side, during the 1994-95 school year the following occurred, as reported by People for the American Way:

In Rocklin, the school board resisted recommendations of its own 26-member committee re course guidelines for 10th-grade HIV/Family Life education and went with old, pre-censored, abstinence only texts. When 100 parents signed a letter of complaint, only marginally better books were used.

In Sawyers Bar, a parent objected to "Sesame Street" being shown to kindergarten classes because Bert and Ernie supposedly "promote homosexuality." The principal, who also is the kindergarten teacher, agreed to review each episode before showing it to the class.

In Ventura County, the president of the Board of Ed., using materials from the religious right's Rutherford Institute, objected to participation of Planned Parenthood and AIDS Care in workshops for county teachers on contraception and HIV prevention. Several other board members joined in voting for such a ban. A recall effort against them has been started.

In West Covina, two school board members (one with ties to the Eagle Foundation) succeeded in canceling a workshop for middle school teachers called "Out of the Closet and into the Classroom." 500 teachers walked out of the conference for 20 minutes in protest and 33 are suing the board members and superintendent.

ASSEMBLY BILL 1001: AB 1001, the "Dignity for All Students Act," authored by lesbian Kuehl, would add "sexual orientation" to the language of the California Education Code, which already prohibits discrimination on the basis of "race, creed, color, national origin, sex, or economic status." However, all the Republican members of the Assembly Committee on Education (K-12) -- buoyed by testimony from hate groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and Concerned Women -- successfully opposed the bill in the 1995 legislative session (it was first introduced in 1995). It therefore died in that committee on an 8-8 party line ballot.

AB 1001 was reintroduced for the 1996 session and promptly killed again by a straight [no kidding] party line vote. On January 3, the first Youth Lobby Day in California produced what might have been the largest LGBT-youth political turnout in state history. Close to 300 Golden State youngsters converged on Sacramento. Nonetheless, AB 1001 was defeated Wednesday (January 10) in the Education Committee of the State Assembly. The bill was targeted for defeat by the Republican Assembly Caucus, which now controls the State Assembly. In fact, one Assemblymember admitted that he had been assigned to the Assembly Education Committee for that day to vote against AB 1001. The final vote went : 7 Democrat votes for, and 8 Republican votes against.

The hearing itself -- not the vote's outcome -- came as a bit of a surprise. The bill was up for reconsideration and was scheduled for a "vote-only," with no testimony. However, Assemblymember Steve Baldwin (R-El Cajon) had invited over a dozen witnesses, to oppose the bill as "ex-gays," and wanted them heard. The bill's author, Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl (D-Encino), as well as co-sponsors -- LIFE Lobby and the California Teachers Association -- were told that testimony would not be heard and were not informed otherwise until that morning.

Testimony was predictable. Proponents spoke eloquently of the discrimination faced by students because of their sexual orientation. The opponents were uniformly opposed to any positive presentations on the gay "lifestyle" in public schools. A popular tactic these days is for opponents to speak against discrimination, but then go on to talk about homosexuality as an abnormality which requires "help," not tolerance. For example, one witness who identified himself as a psychiatrist, testified that his profession has been at the forefront opposing any and all discrimination against homosexuals. He then spoke at length about the "arrested development" of homosexuals; when questioned closely he admitted that "calling a child 'fag' might be a positive deterrent" to the development of homosexual "inclinations."

SENATE BILL 101: SB 101 would authorize AIDS/HIV prevention education for 5th and 6th grade students. According to LIFE Lobby, the bill is currently "stalled" in the California State Senate. It also was introduced in 1995.

Education Committee (K-12), California State Assembly, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0001.

The California State Senate, P.O. Box 942848, Sacramento, CA 94248-0001.

For an example of successful use of LEGAL methods, check out an article from OutNow, a San Jose-based LGBT newspaper, covering the controversy regarding a San Jose, California, area high school principal's refusal to run an ad for youth services from the Billy DeFrank Lesbian and Gay Community Center. A student successfully challenged the principal's decision, with the support of the ACLU. The article is at http://www.outnow.com/60/ads.html, with commentary regarding providing services to youth at http://www.outnow.com/82/youth.html. The San Jose Teachers Association (SJTA) in San Jose, California recently (mid 1996) negotiated domestic partners benefits for San Jose Unified School District, including both same-sex and opposite sex partners.

MaryJo Prokriates, President
San Jose Teachers Association
2476 Almaden Expressway
San Jose, CA 951?? (don't have the zip code - sorry)
voice: (408) 267-0411
fax: (408) 267-7150

San Jose Unified School District
855 Lenzen Avenue
San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 535-6000
(408) 535-6088 [Human Resources]

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Last updated 8/1/2005 by Jean Richter, richter@eecs.Berkeley.EDU