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Maryland to add school history lessons on LGBT, disability rights

Educators in Maryland are busy at work developing history curriculum standards regarding the civil rights battles of the LGBT community and those with disabilities.

According to The Washington Post, once the standards are approved, Maryland will become the fifth state in the country to require LGBT history, joining Illinois, Colorado, New Jersey, and California.

Civil rights advocates say such standards have “long been absent from textbooks and classroom lessons.”

“Imagine you’re an LGBT high schooler and you take a course of American history and never once are LGBT people mentioned,” said Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke, a former history teacher. “What does that say to you, that you’re not American? … I think that can have a profound impact on someone.”

“These are important stories for our teachers to tell,” Luedtke continued, “not only for those students who are themselves LGBT or who have a disability, but so all of our students have a basic understanding of the challenges faced by significant segments of American society.”

From the story:

Luedtke said his letter was prompted in large part by calls from parents, who said they worried their LGBT children weren’t seeing people like them represented in their school curriculum. Luedtke also mentioned the troubling rates of suicide for LGBT youth. …

One of the parents that reached out to Luedtke was Mark Eckstein, a Rockville resident who chairs an LGBT-focused subcommittee within the Montgomery County Council of PTAs. Eckstein and his husband have two children enrolled in a Montgomery County public elementary school.

Eckstein recalled one student who realized in college that he had never learned about the Lavender Scare — the mass firings of gay federal employees in the 1950s. “He was an openly LGBT individual from a very progressive high school,” Eckstein said. “He was disappointed and kind of shocked that he had never heard of that.”

Eckstein said he thinks it’s important to go even deeper in LGBT history than lessons on the Stonewall riots or gay rights leader Harvey Milk. When students learn about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, they could also learn about the openly gay black activist Bayard Rustin, who advised King on nonviolent protests and organized the 1963 March on Washington.

In response to conservative parents’ opposition to the standards, Eckstein points out the curriculum’s focus will be on key historical moments and leaders, like Rustin.

One Maryland school district, Montgomery County Public Schools, plans to go beyond what the new standards would require: It will “ensur[e] diverse texts” in not only history, but world languages, physical education and health, fine arts, and English.

Read the article.

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