The Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School district is awaiting instruction from the Department of Education on how to implement a new state law that requires districts statewide to incorporate the contributions of gay, lesbian and transgender people and the disabled into history curriculums.
SB 48, authored by Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in July. Dubbed the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act, the new law "amends the education code to include social sciences instruction on the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." The law would also prevent any discriminatory instruction or materials from being used by the State Board of Education.
The law applies to classes from kindergarten through high school and will go into effect Jan. 1. Textbooks will not be reprinted to meet the requirement for several years and how the requirement is implemented will be up to individual school districts and classrooms.
"I applaud Governor Brown’s decision to sign SB 48 into law," State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, said in a news release. "And I congratulate Senator Leno for authoring this important legislation. Our history is more complete when we recognize the contributions of people from all backgrounds and walks of life."
"As the result of ongoing budget reductions, the state process for the development and review of K-8 instructional materials is currently dormant, but the California Department of Education looks forward to curriculum that reflects the diversity of our state," Torlakson added.
The overarching goal is to promote tolerance and reduce bullying of kids who are different, in the aftermath of suicides of numerous gay teens around the country.
But in Rohnert Park, Superintendent Robert Haley said he has few details about the requirements and is waiting for guidance from the state.
"We’re aware of the legislation and we’ve been following it," Haley said. "But we don’t have any immediate plans to change our curriculum."
"We believe in a balanced approach to all of our teaching," he added. "Everybody has something to contribute in society."
Haley offered one example of how the curriculum changes would be implemented.
"I would exect at the high school level, if our history teacher is talking about gay entry into politics and somebody brings up Harvey Milk, of course you don’t have to shy away from that," he said.
Opponents of the law — the first of its kind in the country — said they were collecting signatures for a ballot referendum to overturn the legislation.
"Politicians have no business writing textbooks," Paulo Sibaja, a spokesman for the group Stop SB48, told the Associated Press. "It should be left to the historians and academic experts," he said.
Details from the California Schools Boards Association are expected to come in November. Stay tuned to Rohnert Park Patch for updates on how the new law will be implemented.