VI. SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT TO CALIFORNIA SECTION: THE PAPER TRAIL OF LETTERS

Letter 1:

February 23, 1995

Mr. Del Alberti, Chair
Health Subject Matter Committee
Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission
Associate Superintendent
Lodi Unified School District
1305 East Vine Street
Lodi, CA 95240

Dear Mr. Alberti:

We recently wrote to you introducing you to [The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project's predecessor]--the national lesbian, gay and bisexual alliance for curriculum advocacy. We now want to follow up with more specific inquiries about the Health Subject Matter Committee.

Given that the Health Framework, when adopted in 1993, specifically included sexual orientation and specifically included lesbian, gay and bisexual students as students considered to be at-risk, we assume that lesbian, gay and bisexual materials are being included in all health instructional resources. We would be happy to work with you in any capacity to ensure that this happens and to help you advocate for the development of comprehensive school health systems in California schools.

We would like also to find out information about the IREP process. Specifically, we would like to know if lesbian, gay and bisexual materials are going to be included in the IREP training process. We would like to know if we can receive copies of the submissions for the 1995 Health adoption, and we would also like to know when the health adoption public hearings will be held.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Robert Kaplan
Coordinator, Sacramento Project

Letter 2:

February 23, 1995

Mr. Kirk S. Ankeney, Vice Chair
History-Social Science Subject Matter Committee
Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission
Vice Principal
San Diego United School District
Muirlands Middle School
1056 Nautilus Street
La Jolla, CA 92037

Dear Mr. Ankeney:

We recently wrote to you introducing you to [The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project's predecessor]--the national lesbian, gay and bisexual alliance for curriculum advocacy. We are now writing to you because we believe that the primary goals of your committee vis-a-vis the History-Social Science Framework can have a major impact on California's lesbian, gay and bisexual public school students and on the attitudes of California's straight public school students toward homosexuality and bisexuality.

We recently [see letter 3, below] wrote to Dr. Diane Brooks [ed. note; the staff consultant to the Commission re History-Social Science; here we are tapping into all parts of the bureaucracy simultaneously with identical questions, so that we can compare and contrast their responses and figure out where the inconsistencies lie], introducing ourselves to her. We asked her to send us information about the work that she is doing and how she is planning to include lesbian, gay and bisexual materials in the documents that she is proposing and developing.

We would like to find out from you as well what ideas you have to ensure that lesbian, gay and bisexual materials are covered both in the supporting documents to the Framework and in the Framework itself. We, naturally, have many ideas and materials that we would be happy to share with you and look forward to working with you to provide the most accurate information to all of California's public school students.

Sincerely,

Robert Kaplan
Coordinator, Sacramento Project

Letter 3:

February ??, 1995

Dr. Diane Brooks
History-Social Science/Visual and Performing Arts Office
California Department of Education
721 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Dr. Brooks:

We are writing you this letter both to introduce you to [The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project's predecessor] and to share with you our concerns about the updates and support publications that are being discussed for the History-Social Science Framework.

We are a national lesbian, gay and bisexual alliance for curriculum advocacy. We work to ensure that fair, accurate and unbiased information regarding the nature and diversity of sexual orientation is presented to California's youth as part of their public school education. We feel, and we hope that you will agree, that the History-Social Science Framework is a crucial and logical subject matter area within which to include information about historical and contemporary lesbians, gay men, and bisexual women and men for all of California's public school students to learn.

Since the Curriculum Commission and the State Board of Education are already committed to fully representing the diversity of California's population, and since the Health Education Framework, as adopted in 1993, specifically includes sexual orientation, we feel that our request for inclusion in the curriculum is fully merited. Under separate cover, we will be sending you materials that we feel appropriately represent this often-neglected segment of U.S. history and current events. We would like, at this point, to suggest to you several different areas within which these materials should go, all of which are referenced in your November 30, 1994 memo to Chuck Kloes:

  1. History Supplement. This Supplement is described as "content related to world and U.S. history such as important issues, events, or themes since 1987." Certainly, within this framework, should be included the 1987 and 1993 Marches on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights and Liberation; AIDS and AIDS activism, particularly ACT-UP and other responses of various ethnic and cultural communities to AIDS; the controversy over out lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers in the military; the legislative successes and defeats of antidiscrimination laws that include sexual orientation as well as of anti-gay initiatives; and the demonization of homosexuality as a means of defunding the NEA. One could also go back one year prior, to 1986, to discuss the Supreme Court's Hardwick decision, as well as statewide antidiscrimination laws that have been passed since that time and successful state constitutional challenges to sodomy laws.
  2. Course Models. "Areas to address . . . include . . . women in history [and] principles of American democracy . . ." Certainly, "women in history" should include women who loved other women--for example, but by no means limited to, Queen Christina of Sweden; the tradition of Romantic Friendships and Boston Marriages between middle-class women in the U.S. and England in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially women involved in the suffragette movement, the anti-slavery movment and other social movements; Jane Addams; Eleanor Roosevelt; and the Daughters of Bilitis. "Principles of American democracy" should certainly include the idea of equal representation under the law as well as the idea of equal opportunity, both of which directly affect the lives of lesbians, gay men and bisexual women and men.
  3. Model Curriculum Handbook. Certainly this handbook should address not just the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual students and teachers (most of whom are closeted), but also the homophobia of straight students and teachers that prevents lesbian, gay and bisexual students and teachers from fully participating in the educational learning process. As the Health Education Framework adoption committee recognized by specifically naming lesbian, gay and bisexual youth as high-risk for suicide, 30% of teen suicides are lesbian, gay or bisexual teenagers. Given that enormous figure, we hope that you will agree as to the critical nature of this kind of inclusion, which can easily be considered "professional development for teachers and administrators" as well as "working with a changing population."
  4. Literature Lists. Given that these lists would pay particular attention to "women in ancient and medieval history" and "stories and history of the underrepresented," we think that there is ample justification for including works by lesbian, gay and bisexual writers who are taught as such, as well as works that include openly lesbian, gay and bisexual characters.

In addition, we would also like to know the contact name and address for the California Media and Library Educators Association (CMLEA) as well as find out exactly what the California School Leadership Academy (CSLA) Module for History-Social Sciences is and what the module is used for. Finally, according to Janet Chladek, we understand that you would know the status of the visual and performing arts literature list and we would like to receive a copy of this list.

Thank you very much. We look forward to hearing your responses to our suggestions and we look forward to working with you on developing these exciting ideas.

Sincerely,

Robert Kaplan
Coordinator, Sacramento Project

cc: Delaine Eastin
Sheila James Kuehl

Encl.

Letter 4:

April 28, 1995

Dr. Diane Brooks
Administrator
History-Social Science and Visual and Performing Arts Office
California Department of Education
721 Capitol Mall
P.O. Box 944272
Sacramento, CA 94244-2720

Dear Dr. Brooks:

Thank you very much for your letter of March 8, 1995. We are pleased that the History-Social Science Framework supports the inclusion of lesbian, gay and bisexual materials and are anxious to work with you and the members of the Curriculum Commission to ensure that this inclusion occurs.

Therefore, in the spirit of developing a history curriculum that supports the educational needs of all of California's public school students, we would like to raise several concerns:

  1. Does the Framework specifically mention lesbians, gay men and bisexual women and men in, for example, "its call to avoid stereotyping of group members" (quoted from your letter)? Our experience is that unless we are specifically named in official documents, textbooks omit us and teachers will not name us. This silence perpetuates the invisibility of lesbians, gay men and bisexual women and men; further supports and produces homophobia and ignorance among students, teachers and other educators; and isolates lesbian, gay and bisexual students from their classmates, from their teachers and from the learning process. We would therefore like to know what mechanisms have been set up to ensure that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are presented fully and accurately in the History Framework and throughout the textbook adoption process.
  2. We do not think that lesbian, gay and bisexual issues are "controversial issues" (quoted from your letter). Rather, homophobia is the controversial issue. As the Model Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide indicates, throughout history lesbians, gay men and bisexual women and men have been murdered, quarantined, harassed, etc. However, it is homophobia, not sexual orientation, that makes such acts occur. We are certain that the Curriculum Commission would not say that African-Americans, for example, are a controversial issue; rather, the Curriculum Commission would say that racism is the controversy. Similarly, we are not controversial, and we have severe misgivings and doubts about the ability of the History Framework to present lesbian, gay and bisexual information fairly and accurately when we are viewed in this light.
  3. Nowhere in your letter do we see any references to the numerous events that constitute the extremely rich and complex lesbian, gay and bisexual history that exists in both this and other countries. What is mentioned in your letter is an overview of the history of homophobia, both past and present. While certainly the history of homophobia has had a major impact on lesbian, gay and bisexual history, the two are not synonymous. Lesbian, gay and bisexual history is not just a history of oppression. It is also a history of thriving, of developing communities and cultures, of being intimately involved in many of this country's, and other countries', important historical moments. We are very much concerned that none of this rich information is represented in the History Framework.

Concurrently with our February 17, 1995 letter, we sent you a package of materials that address many of the concerns that we are raising here. We are wondering whether or not you have read those materials. The reason we sent them to you was to make clear to you the importance of addressing lesbian, gay and bisexual issues and history specifically and directly. Certainly we hope that you would agree that, as educators, we all have an ethical and professional mandate to present full and accurate information. In the case of lesbian, gay and bisexual materials, which are far too often omitted or misrepresented, that mandate is even stronger; to shirk it is to only continue to foster the homophobic prejudice that comes from ignorance and silence.

We would be happy to meet with you and with any interested members of the Curriculum Commission to discuss these issues further. We would also be happy to put you in touch with educational experts in this field. We very much appreciate your interest and concern in these matters.

Sincerely,

Robert Kaplan
Coordinator, Sacramento Project

cc: Delaine Eastin
Sheila James Kuehl

P.S.: Sheila James Kuehl is a new State Assemblymember from Southern California. She is an out lesbian, is very interested in educational issues, and has introduced, with Assemblymember Richard Katz, a bill that would give lesbian, gay and bisexual public schoool students protection from discrimination in the classroom and that would prohibit teachers from using materials that "reflect adversely on persons because of their sexual orientation." As you requested, we are sending her a copy of your response to our February 17 letter. Should you care to correspond with her directly, her address is:

Assemblymember Sheila James Kuehl
State Capitol
Room 2141
P.O. Box 924849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0001

Letter 5:

Mrs. Kathryn Dronenburg
5001 Ligia Place
El Cajon, CA 92020

Dear Mrs. Dronenburg:

We are writing to you in your capacity as a member of the California State Board of Education to inform you about [The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project's predecessor], the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender alliance for curriculum advocacy. We work to ensure that fair, accurate and unbiased information regarding the nature and diversity of sexual orientation is presented to California's youth as part of their public school education.

Although you may already have heard of us, as we were actively involved in providing input into the curriculum development process in the recent Health Education Framework Adoption, we have not been as active since that time as we would have liked. However, we have now reorganized, and have been in contact with all members of the Curriculum Commission, particularly those on the Health Subcommittee, the History Subcommittee and the Visual/Performing Arts Subcommittee.

We are writing to you for two reasons. One is simply to introduce or reintroduce ourselves to you. The other is to both remind you of the necessity of including accurate and truthful information about sexual orientation in all of California's educational materials and to ask you what ideas you have to help ensure that that inclusion occurs. Since the Curriculum Commission is already committed to a policy of including all students in the curriculum and of recognizing the diversity of California's student population (and the subsequent diversity of learning styles), we believe that it is part of the Commission's mandate (and, consequently, the Board of Education's mandate) to include truthful materials about lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgendered women and men in curricula and textbooks across the state. With the suicide rate of lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning teenagers a full three times the suicide rate of straight teenagers, and with anti-gay hate crimes the fastest growing category of hate crimes, we hope that you will agree with us as to the importance of this educational work.

We have many resources regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered women's and men's lives and histories that we would be happy to send to you. We look forward to a long and productive working relationship with the Board of Education to further our mutual goal of providing accurate information to all of California's public school students.

Sincerely,

Robert Kaplan
Coordinator, Sacramento Project

Letter 6:

Delaine Eastin
Superintendent of Public Instruction
State Department of Education
P.O. Box 944272
Sacramento, CA 94244-2720

Dear Superintendent Eastin:

In mid-May 1995, we wrote to you inquiring as to whether there was a specific contact person on your staff to whom we could address copies of letters that we have been sending to various state educational officials in our continuing efforts to get lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered materials into statewide curricula. Shortly thereafter, Nancy Sullivan, a staff member of the Curriculum Commission, informed us that our letter to you had been forwarded to her.

We are unsure as to why our letter was forwarded. Although our contacts with Ms. Sullivan have always been excellent, she is, to our knowledge, not working out of your office. We have been sending you copies of our letters because of your past support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights and because we are, to our knowledge, the only statewide organization working to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered public school students have equal educational access and that all public school students receive accurate information about the nature and diversity of sexual orientation.

We realize that you are extremely busy, that your office probably gets hundreds of letters each day and that it would be impossible for you to read and respond to more than a few of those letters. However, as we are certain you can imagine, not all members of, employees of, or consultants to the State Department of Education are supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights; while we are aware that you cannot tell the Department of Education "what to do," we do think that it is extremely important that you be kept aware of our efforts and we would hope that it would be possible for you to help out where and how you see fit. That is why we have been sending you copies of our letters and that is also why we inquired as to whether there was a contact staff person in your office in the same way that Assemblymember Sheila James Kuehl has designated a contact staff person for us.

Thus, we were extremely dismayed to learn that our letter had been forwarded to Ms. Sullivan, and we cannot help but wonder if the letters that we have been copying to you (including the ones enclosed with this letter) are also being forwarded to the Curriculum Commission staff. While we have had many good dealings with numerous Curriculum Commission staff persons, they are obviously not you or your office. Given our unique status, given the at-risk status of so many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth, and given your past support, we would like to establish an on-going working relationship with you and your office, and would like to know how to go about doing so.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Robert Kaplan
Coordinator, Sacramento Project

Encl.

Letter 7:

Mrs. Marion McDowell
President, California State Board of Education
896 Bauer Drive
San Carlos, CA 94070

Dear Mrs. McDowell:

Thank you for your letter of May 31 in response to our letter of May 24 in which we expressed our desire to work with the State Board to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered materials are included in California's public education system and that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students have equal access to a high-quality public education. We very much appreciate your support of our involvement in this area.

We are, however, somewhat concerned and confused by your assertion that the State Board is not an appropriate place for us to be sharing the many resources that we have regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered women's and men's lives and histories. While we agree with you that it is important to dialogue with educational publishers and professionals at all levels of the curricular process, we would hope that you would agree with us that the State Board plays an extremely active and pivotal role in shaping the content of California's public education and thus is an appropriate place for us to be sharing our resources as well.

The Board does not merely fashion curricular frameworks with no expectation that they will be followed, nor does the Board merely evaluate instructional resources that publishers have, on their own, decided to submit. Rather, the Board adopts the Frameworks as broad-based guidelines for all of California's public school students; as such, the Frameworks have a major curricular and educational policy and advocacy impact throughout the state. Furthermore, the Curriculum Commission is in regular contact with publishers regarding the Commission's expectations long prior to the actual adoption process. Thus, materials that publishers submit at the end of this dialogue are shaped by the Commission, not by the publishers. In other words, the Board is not a passive agent but, rather, an extremely active shaper of California's public school curricula--as well it should be.

As such, it is extremely appropriate for us to share our resources with the Board. For example, the fact that many of California's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered public school students are at-risk, as the Health Frameworks themselves accurately state, should be of grave concern to the Board. These students are at-risk because the homophobia that pervades far too many of California's public schools keeps many such students isolated and ridiculed, by both teachers and other students, and prevents them from having equal educational access. This homophobia is supported and furthered by the lack of truthful materials in public schools regarding the nature and diversity of sexual orientation. Lack of truthful materials, therefore, leads to educational marginality. Surely we can all agree that it is most appropriate for the Board to be concerned about the educational marginality of any of California's public school students.

As you yourself know, the decision to include sexual orientation in the Health Frameworks was a controversial one--but also one that put the State Board of Education squarely behind fairness and inclusion for all of California's public school students. Not only do we appreciate your own efforts vis-a-vis the Health Framework, that stand by the State Board has major educational ramifications, and we would like to see the State Board follow through on its commitment to equity by supporting the adoption of Health materials that include truthful information about sexual orientation. Furthermore, we would like to see the State Board support the inclusion of sexual orientation in other Frameworks as well. However, the State Board can only effectively accomplish this push toward educational equity and accuracy if it, along with other educational professionals, has access to factual information regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered women's and men's lives and histories. Thus, our offer to share resources with the Board is extremely appropriate and one that we would like to take this opportunity to repeat.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Robert Kaplan
Coordinator, Sacramento Project

cc: Members, State Board of Education
Hon. Delaine Eastin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
State Assemblymember Sheila James Kuehl

Letter 8:

Mrs. Marion McDowell
President, California State Board of Education
896 Bauer Drive
San Carlos, CA 94070

Dear Mrs. McDowell:

Thank you very much for your letter of June 30, 1995 regarding our June 28, 1995 letter. We very much appreciate your willingness to dialogue with us regarding the fair and accurate presentation and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered materials in California's public school curricula. As you requested, we are compiling 15 copies of materials regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered women's and men's lives and histories, as well as of information regarding the homophobic conditions that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered public school students face. Hoever, since we are unclear as to whom you consider to be key staff, we will be sending all 15 copies to you and we ask that you distribute them to each member of the State Board and to the key staff. When you have completed the distribution, we would very much appreciate it if you would let us know which staff members have received the materials. We thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.

We also wanted to take this opportunity to respond to the two main points of your June 30, 1995 letter. As we said in our June 28 letter, we fully agree with you as to the value of working with publishers and local school agencies and we appreciate your thoughtfulness regarding the best use of our limited resources. However, we must take strong issue with your presentation of the State Board's role in the curriculum framework and instructional resources adoption process, for we believe that you are being somewhat misleading in that presentation.

As you yourself state, the State Board exercises educational leadership. However, regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered materials, we believe that the State Board is not exercising leadership but, rather, is abdicating its leadership responsibilities and authority. Yes, as you so rightly reiterate, the State Board cannot require the use of a particular textbook by local schools. Your protestations of the limits of the State Board's power, though, appear to be disingenuous as well as a denial of the State Board's mandated responsibilities to ensure that all of California's public school students have equal educational access.

For example, given that the Curriculum Commission is in regular contact with publishers long before the actual submission due date, the State Board could easily make it clear to all publishers that it would reject any materials submitted that are not accurately inclusive of lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgendered women and men, just as it would reject materials submitted that did not accurately portray other minority groups. Similarly, the State Board could ensure that all Frameworks specifically include sexual orientation, as well as the special learning needs and barriers of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered public school students, just as it rightly does with other minority groups. In other words, the State Board could, and we believe should, exercise leadership by "coming out" as publicly pro-gay. Such an action, while not requiring local schools to follow suit, would set a statewide tone of inclusivity and fairness that would create a public space within which local schools that wanted to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered materials, but either did not have access to resources or were afraid of a right-wing backlash, could safely do so. It would also create a space within which parents, teachers and students in schools that were not inclusive could begin to raise their concerns about the lack of such inclusiveness. Such actions would create the opportunity for a dialogue around sexual orientation that currently does not exist while still fully respecting local control. However, by being silent, by not publicly taking these and other potential steps that are fully within its power, the State Board is instead abdicating its leadership responsibilities, is denying California's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered public school students an equal education, and is denying all of California's students fair and accurate information about the nature and diversity of sexual orientation.

We are also extremely puzzled by your statement that "the State Board does not schedule consideration of curricular issues separate from formal processes..." Frankly, we have no idea why you are telling us this, since we have never once asked the State Board to schedule any separate hearings, and we are unsure what to make of your statement. While we are certain that it is unintentional on your part, the language of your statement sounds unfortunately very similar to the right-wing language of "special rights." Just as that right-wing "special rights" language is a lie, as there are currently no federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, so have we never asked for any separate hearings or special treatment. We believe that the State Board can easily cover lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered concerns while conducting its normal curricular business. As a matter of fact, that is what we think the State Board should be doing. Our concern is that the State Board is not doing that.

We would appreciate it very much if you would let us know how to interpret your statement and why you felt it necessary to make such a statement in the first place. Meanwhile, we want to be very clear: we want no special consideration. Rather, we simply want the same rights and respect due all American citizens--fair and accurate inclusion in the curriculum--and we want lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered public school students to have the same rights and respect due all public school students--equal access to a public education.

We look forward to hearing from you and to working with you to ensure that our mutual goal of equity in education for all of California's public school students is met.

Sincerely,

Robert Kaplan
Coordinator, Sacramento Project

cc: Members, State Board of Education
Hon. Delaine Eastin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Assemblymember Sheila James Kuehl

Letter 9:

Peg Woerner, Contract Manager
Glencoe/McGraw-Hill
936 Eastwind Drive
Westerville OH 43081-3374

August 23, 1995

Dear Ms. Woerner,

From a letter written August 14, 1995 by California Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission Chair Geno Flores to one of my colleagues, we learned that "We [the Commission] forwarded the written testimony received on July 27, 1995 to the editorial staff of Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. They [Glencoe/McGraw-Hill] are in the process of developing additional teacher support material on the topic of suicide and had requested copies of the reports given to us at the meeting. It is our understanding that Glencoe/McGraw-Hill will include information on the increased risk for suicide among the gay and lesbian population in this teacher support material. I am very supportive of this development and hope you share my feeling that your testimony had an impact." Enclosed please find, for your editorial staff's use, four documents relevant to lesbian/gay/bi/trans youth suicide:

  1. Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide, 1989, Dept. of Health and Human Services
  2. "Impact of Victimization on the Mental Health and Suicidality of LGB Youths," 1995, Hershberger and Augelli, Developmental Psychology, Vol. 31, No. 1, 65-74.
  3. "Risk Factors for Attempted Suicide in Gay and Bisexual Youth," Pediatrics, Vol. 87, No. 6, June 1991.
  4. "Subject: Gay Youth Suicide Facts," Jerry Cheney, Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth.

While we are indeed pleased at your interest in developing additional teacher support material on the topic of LGBT youth suicide, we must hasten to add that

  1. this material should also appear in the actual TEXTBOOKS
  2. suicide is by no means the only LGBT youth health issue.

Indeed, we also enclose the table of contents from a packet of health-related studies we just researched and submitted to each member of the California State Board of Education [authors' note: this table of contents, which is in the form of an annotated bibliography, is available online from The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project. Write to jessea@uclink2.berkeley.edu or send $2 for hard copy to us at 586 62nd St., Oakland CA 94609], in hopes they would insist that textbooks be more inclusive of full, fair, and accurate information about LGBT health issues.

We stand ready to be of further service to the extent possible, given that we are volunteers.

Jessea Greenman, Co-Founder
The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project

Letter 10:

August 10, 1995

To Members of the California Board of Education and Staff of the Department of Education:

Early in May, Robert Kaplan and I met with Dr. Shirley Holder Hazlett and Gail Maurer of your Healthy Kids, Healthy California Office to discuss the unmet health education needs of California's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) public school students. Dr. Holder Hazlett indicated her office's awareness of the needs of LGBT young people for education regarding suicide and HIV disease but was UNaware of their specific needs for tailored education around drug, alcohol, and tobacco use; around drop-out prevention; around family conflict resolution skills for healthy family dynamics, etc.

Dr. Holder Hazlett challenged us to document these needs by providing appropriate research literature. With the invaluable help of our summer intern, Ms. Katie Laird of Swarthmore, we have done so, even though it has taken us months (we are, after all, unpaid volunteers providing, free to you, professional consulting services). Our literature search and review has brought forward information vital to your decision-making at this critical juncture, as you evaluate proposed health textbooks for possible final state adoption.

Attached please find the very best and latest research on the health education needs of LGBT young people. For your convenience, we have provided a Table of Contents which includes synopses of each article, in case you don't have the time right now to read the research articles in their entirety. You will note that over and over and over again, the research shows that LGBT youth are at special risk for misuse of substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs due to the stresses to which a hostile society and homophobic educational system subject them. Further, the studies prove that LGBT youth are at high risk of dropping out of school, running away from home, etc. Their needs for information and support clearly are NOT being met.

You have an historic opportunity right now to make a difference and save the lives of thousands of LGBT Californian public school students by insisting that publishers include fair and accurate information about LGBT people in the health textbooks. You can turn the corner on our society's callous indifference to these forgotten young people and refuse to adopt books which are not inclusive of material addressing their desperate need for education.

Please keep in mind that the Health Framework you adopted two years ago mandates such inclusion. Finally, please note that, should you decline to adopt inclusive texts in the face of such overwhelming evidence of the need these young people have for information and support, you would be remiss. Such nonfeasance would result in California's losing lawsuits brought as more LGBT young people continue to take their own lives or die at the hands of ignorant and bigoted peers. We urge you to be pro-active now, save those valuable lives, and avoid the painful and costly embarrassment of such lawsuits. Now is the time for you to step forward and exert educational and ethical leadership regarding the state's health education policy and practice.

Sincerely,

Jessea Greenman
Co-founder, The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project

SAMPLE NEWS RELEASE:

NEWS RELEASE July 10, 1995

CONTACT Jessea Greenman, Co-Founder, The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project,
jessea@uclink2.berkeley.edu, 510-601-8883

Penultimate Chance to Demand Inclusive Health Texts

Proper health education in public schools is a life or death matter for young people. Young LGBT people need to hear from educators that they are healthy people deserving of respect in society. They need fair and accurate information about the role of homophobia in creating excessive stressors which will make their lives more challenging. Young "straight" people need to be taught that queers are normal and natural and that bias against us is a societal illness. All young people need to be taught honestly and accurately about sexuality, STD's, and AIDS. Health education, if done right, can prevent homophobia, a highly destructive social disease for which all students are at risk unless given proper instruction to the contrary.

Unfortunately the State of California is unlikely to approve inclusive health education materials despite a mandate to do so in the most recent Health Framework (the document passed by the Curriculum Commission and the State Board of Eduction which governs health education texts and teaching). State educational policy makers still are loath to approve classroom health study materials which tell the truth about the sexual orientation and homophobia. Their failure to do so represents abandonment of their responsibility to innoculate young people with the only known vaccine against homophobia: the truth about sexual orientation.

The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project calls upon all people *anywhere* who interested in truth and justice in public education to communicate their concerns to the California Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (CCDSMC) RIGHT NOW. The books California adopts influence the textbook market throughout the nation due to the economics of publishing.

Write to the CCDSMC at once, as it is holding hearings Wednesday July 26 and Thursday July 27 on proposed health education materials for use in the state's school for the next 5-7 years. Better yet, if you can go to Sacramento and attend the hearings, sign up to testify. Public comment periods on Health Instructional Resources will be held both of those two days at 10 a.m. in Room 166, Education Building, 721 Capitol Mall, Sacramento CA. You can sign up to speak for two minutes by writing the CCDSMC at P.O.Box 944272, Sacramento CA 94244-2720 (Attention: Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Office) or by calling them at 916-657-5436. Requests must be made by noon the third working day before the scheduled public comment period.

If you can't go speak, then by all means DO write to the CCDSMC at the same address. Demand that they adopt only materials which are inclusive of full, fair, accurate and diverse information about LGBT people, sexual orientation, and sexuality. Address your concerns directly to Eugene "Geno" Flores, Chair of the Commission, and request that your comments be circulated to all Commission members.

Health materials being proposed for use in California's classrooms (and elsewhere around the nation) are on display at Learning Resource Display Centers (LRDCs) throughout the state. Now is the time that citizens can visit these centers to view the materials and critique them. You can be CERTAIN that the minions of the radical religious right wing are doing just that. Our voices also must be heard in this process.

For a complete list of California's LRDCs, please email jessea@uclink2.berkeley.edu. You can make a huge difference in the lives of school children, queer or not, by standing up now for objectivity and inclusiveness in health education materials. Out young people deserve self-esteem. Straight youth need the facts if they are to avoid developing the dangerous social illness called homophobia, an disease created by our public school system when it ignores the truth that same-sex orientation is natural and normal and instead allows ignorance and prejudice to grow unchecked in impressionable young minds.

After viewing the materials, fill out a comment postcard at the LRDC. OR, better yet, send your thoughts via letter directly to the State Board of Education. The Board can be reached at 721 Capitol Mall; P.O. Box 944272, Sacramento CA 94244-2720. Send to the attention of Board President Marion McDowell, and ask that your comments be circulated to all members of the Board. The Board will be holding hearings on the recommendations made by the CCDSMC. The Board's hearing will be September 7th and 8th, so get thee to the nearest LRDC and then communicate directly to the Board.

You may also write to the individual publishers. For a list of all publishers of participating in the 1995 Health Adoption, email
jessea@uclink2.berkeley.edu.

SAMPLE OPINION PIECES FOR MAINSTREAM MEDIA

SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND PUBLIC EDUCATION

California is center stage for a dramatic struggle for multiculturalism and diversity in public education, a struggle with national implications. The textbook choices made by our state, one of the two largest purchasers of textbooks in the country, strongly influence the entire textbook publishing industry's decisions.

Those who support justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are part of this effort. Our goal is to get objective and multicultural material about bisexuals, lesbians, transgendered people, and gay men into public school textbooks, curricula, and libraries. Considering our society's near-total lack of correct information about sexual orientation and the horrifying discrimination, hatred and violence which result, such education is desperately needed.

Many people have worked for such inclusion for some time, but with only limited success. For example, in mid 1990, it took three months of intense struggle merely to obtain a counselling and support program for LGBT youth in the San Francisco public schools. This acrimonious battle, in a city which prides itself on open-mindedness, made it evident that even more exhausting efforts would be required in each and every school district across the land, with at best mixed results, unless a more comprehensive and proactive approach to homophobia in our public schools and society is taken.

Why is it so important that fair and accurate information about LGBT people be included in public education? For society as a whole, greater knowledge of the valuable roles that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have always played would overcome the erroneous stereotypes most people have about our community. This would enable society to more fully utilize the talents and energies of our people.

Furthermore, such information is needed if people are to have an accurate understanding of world history and literature. It can be argued, for example, that Alexander the Great ended his drive for expanded empire because his male lover died, leaving Alexander too bereft to continue his conquests. It can be argued that Eleanor Roosevelt intended that the UN International Declaration of Human Rights, of which she is the chief architect, be interpreted to protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (contrary to the current spurious interpretation) because not only were some of her best friends lesbian but she herself loved another woman. We cannot begin to analyze correctly the works of Whitman, Baldwin, Woolf, Garcia Lorca, Hansberry, Mishima, Dickinson or myriads of others unless we appreciate their lesbian, gay, and bisexual sensibilities.

All children need this information when their attitudes are forming so that they do not absorb the misinformed prejudices currently so prevalent among adults. According to a suppressed federal study, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people presently kill themselves at three times the expected rate. They have a right to self-esteem, to know they are not alone in the world, to grow up happy and productive members of society.

Yet, to date, the history/social science textbooks adopted in California totally censor the existence and many contributions throughout world history of lesbian, bisexual, and gay people of all colors. Not one of them even mentions the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (made invisible by the mainstream media but deemed by many after the fact to have been the largest civil rights march and rally in US history) or our 1987 mass civil disobedience at the US Supreme Court, the first civil disobedience action ever conducted at the Supreme Court. It is unacceptable that such prominent events be omitted from the texts.

Public schools must perform their duty to educate all children to live in the real world. Children must be taught the information they will need to make responsible decisions and to treat others with respect. The textbooks' lies of omission contribute to society's woeful lack of understanding about sexual orientation, which in turn leads to unfair treatment of and violence against bisexuals, gay men, and lesbians. We protest the conspiracy of silence against us which these materials continue to perpetuate.

This struggle will continue until justice is done. We will provide expert testimony, organize rallies and pickets, hold press conferences, garner support from candidates for public office, etc. until our goals are attained. By these actions, the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community and its supporters give notice that we cannot condone the denial of our existence or misrepresentation of our lives. We will not rest until the schools in this country do the right thing: provide fair and accurate and multicultural instruction about sexual orientation.

In a court of law, the standard for truth is to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. With regard to the truth about sexual orientation, the public educational system today fails this test on all three of these counts. In this our living democracy, let us constantly remember that only the truth shall make us all free.

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TRUTH IN LABELING: INCLUDING SEXUAL ORIENTATION IN EDUCATION

The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project was formed because lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have been the victims of a conspiracy of silence throughout the ages and around the world. Mainstream history has, wherever possible, denied that we exist. It has minimized our numbers and importance. To borrow an expression from our friends in the church, this is the sin of omission. This attempt to make us invisible is a particularly insidious form of defamation. This conspiracy of silence perpetuates misunderstanding and hatred based on ignorance.

Speaking of the church, King James I, who commissioned the King James Bible, is thought by historians to have been a gay man. So is Erasmus, a noted Dutch theologian.

You are perhaps aware of the stereotype that gay men are effeminate. People wouldn't hold that view if it were more widely known that great rulers and leaders such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hadrian, Montezuma II, Richard the Lion-Hearted, and Lawrence of Arabia were gay or bisexual. Those are all figures commonly studied in our classrooms.

You may think you know the major lesbian, gay and bisexual people of the arts and letters, such as Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein, but did you know about Hans Christian Anderson, Yukio Mishima, James Baldwin, Garcia Lorca, W.H. Auden, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Willa Cather, Herman Melville, Colette, and Margherite Yourcenou?

It is said LGBT people are not patriotic. I present to you Alexander Hamilton. Not successful? Try Horatio Alger.

We have world leaders, too. There's Dag Hammarskjold. There's Eleanor Roosevelt, who was, for obvious reasons, the chief architect of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ever study the African-American civil rights movement? Bayard Rustin, who organized the famous 1963 Washington, was proud to be gay. Speaking of marches on Washington, the largest in history was conducted by lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in 1987...over 600,000 attended yet these new textbooks omit that indisputable fact, in good measure because major mainstream media such as your own publication chose to ignore the march.

Ever study economics? John Maynard Keynes was gay.

Do we contribute to society? Alan Turing invented the cryptic decoder which made possible the Allied victory in World War II. The bitter irony is that, subsequently, he was told that he was a security risk because he was a gay man, hounded out of government service, and so he killed himself. Why isn't that story in our school books as a case study of how homophobia harms society? Why don't students of the Nazi Holocaust learn that lesbians and gays were also victims?

LGBT people are not born hating themselves nor are "straight" people born hating us. People learn this. Their attitudes are reinforced by the conspiracy of silence described above. What is this, classified information? Let's have an educational "freedom of information act." All school-age youth, whatever their sexual orientation, have a "need to know" and in fact a right to know this information. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids, like all other children, have the right to grow up healthy, happy, productive and free from misinformed hatred and prejudice.

Maybe we need a truth-in-labeling policy for history. For you see, due to the above detailed centuries of censorship, most people are presumed to be straight. We LGBT folks have experienced millennia of hatred, discrimination, censorship and violence because of our sexual orientation. Apparently it mattered enough to bigots to justify annihilating us literally and figuratively, yet when it comes time to acknowledge the vast contributions to society and history of our people, then all of a sudden we are told that the sexual orientation of famous people is irrelevant or unimportant, a blatantly hypocritical double standard.

I say to you, there is a conspiracy of silence. This conspiracy of silence is killing us. Now that you know, what will YOU do?

Jessea NR Greenman, The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project

Return to the Handbook Table of Contents

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