After a heated debate that went past midnight as hundreds crowded a Wednesday school board meeting, the Rocklin Unified School District school board narrowly approved a new school curriculum that includes contributions made by LGBT figures.
The 3-2 decision came after hours of public comments. At 1 a.m., the district said it was set to adopt the new K-5 history and social studies curriculum.
Parents in opposition urged the district to pilot an alternative program, saying the students were too young to learn that historical figures identified as gay or lesbian.
The meeting was held at a Rocklin middle school gymnasium to accommodate the large crowd. Many supporters of the curriculum wore yellow, and both sides cheered their speakers and were filled with emotions during public comments.
California’s FAIR Education Act, passed in 2011, mandates that school textbooks and curricula be more inclusive of historically underrepresented communities, including those with disabilities, from various religious backgrounds, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The district’s chosen curriculum, Studies Weekly, complies with the FAIR Education Act — also referred to as the LGBT History Bill. The bill, SB 48, is often met with debate when implemented at the school district level.
The district spent a year piloting several units of the the new curriculum, introducing it to 35 teachers in the majority of the district’s schools, said deputy superintendent Kathleen Pon.
“All students should be able to see a role model in their textbook, and say, ‘A person like me did something great, and I can do something great too,’” said Whitney High School student Michael Whiteside.
But nearly 1,000 Rocklin residents signed a petition asking the district to delay the decision to adopt a new curriculum, because they said elementary students were too young to understand sexual orientation.
And those opposing the new curriculum threatened to hold a “sit-out” and not send their children to school on Friday.
“We believe that anyone who has made a significant contribution to society should, of course, be included in our history textbooks,” said Rachel Crutchfield, spokeswoman for Informed Parents of Rocklin. “However, the concept of sexual orientation is far too complex of a topic for elementary-aged children to be introduced to at school. Children in second grade simply do not have the tools to comprehend sexuality, nor do we want them to. Let’s let kids be kids.”
Crutchfield said she understands and agrees with including LGBT leaders in history curriculum, but that it should be done in later grades when students can comprehend “complex sexual topics.”
In the proposed second grade textbook, Studies Weekly describes Sally Ride as a “good example for all females,” and states that she “joined NASA and became the first female and first lesbian American astronaut.”
The curriculum also includes figures from communities that have lacked inclusion in textbooks in the past, such as Dalip Singh Saund, an Indian American who advocated for Asian American rights when Indians were barred from becoming citizens.