‘Schools should not be used to advocate for lifestyles that are against the religious values of the students and parents…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Illinois public schools will be required to teach LGBTQ history in their classes next year.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 246 into law on Friday, which mandates schools teach students “the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State.”
The bill also mandates specific African–American history courses, along with those highlighting groups like the Polish, Irish, Italian, Hispanic and Asian Americans.
“It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment,” state Sen. Heather Steans said in a statement.
“LGBTQ children and teenagers will also be able to look to new role models who share life experiences with them,” she said.
Illinois’s Board of Education must also publish a list of “secular and non-discriminatory” textbooks each school district must purchase and adopt “necessary” rules “to ensure the religious neutrality of the textbook block-grant program.”
Opponents of the bill have cited this clause in particular as a threat to religious freedom.
“Schools should teach that we should be respectful of each student and each person. This is what we all agree on. However, schools should not be used to advocate for lifestyles that are against the religious values of the students and parents,” Illinois Family Institute lobbyist Ralph Rivera told legislators in a memo, according to the State Journal Register.
Steans said educational inclusion is “one of the best ways to overcome intolerance,” citing a 2015 survey that showed nearly 70 percent of LGBTQ students in the state had been verbally harassed in school.
“An inclusive curriculum will not only teach an accurate version of history but also promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community,” she continued.
Equality Illinois, an LGBTQ advocacy group, praised the bill as a “life-saving law” that placed the state “on the right side of history.”
“To deny a child information that could give them hope, that could help them feel less alone, that could help them feel like they mattered—while at the same time condemning them to hearing bigoted slurs in the hallways of their schools—is a cruelty that every feeling adult has a responsibility to stop.”