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California Education Code Social Content

The California Education Code has been updated over time to ensure that the contributions of members of underrepresented racial, ethnic and cultural groups to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States are included in history and social studies lessons. To this end, California Education Code’s Social Content statute requires that instructional materials:

  • Portray accurately and equitably the cultural and racial diversity of American society;
  • Demonstrate the contribution of minority groups and males and females to the development of California and the United States;
  • Emphasize people in varied, positive, and contributing roles in order to influence students’ school experiences constructively; and
  • Not contain inappropriate references to commercial brand names, products, and corporate or company logos.
The FAIR Education Act

The FAIR Education Act, SB 48  (Leno), was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on January 1, 2012. It amends California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community in history and social studies curriculum.

For more:

 

FAIR Ed FAQs


  • Who will determine what is taught under these updated education guidelines?
    There is no state-mandated curriculum on these topics. Instead, the state issues guidelines and then lessons are developed and approved at the local level, where school districts and school board members, with input from parents and teachers, will decide what’s appropriate for each classroom.
  • What does the law say, exactly?

    The Fair Education Act amends the California Education Code for Elementary and Secondary School’s chapters on Required Courses of Study and Instructional Materials:

      • § 51204.5.  Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.

     

      • § 51500. A teacher shall not give instruction and a school district shall not sponsor any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.

     

      • § 51501. The state board and any governing board shall not adopt any textbooks or other instructional materials for use in the public schools that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.

     

    • § 60040. When adopting instructional materials for use in the schools, governing boards shall include only instructional materials which, in their determination, accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society, including:

    (a) The contributions of both men and women in all types of roles, including professional, vocational, and executive roles.

    (b) The role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups to the total development of California and the United States.

    (c) The role and contributions of the entrepreneur and labor in the total development of California and the United States.

    • § 60044.  A governing board shall not adopt any instructional materials for use in the schools that, in its determination, contain:

    (a) Any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, occupation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.

    (b) Any sectarian or denominational doctrine or propaganda contrary to law.

  • What kinds of lessons might students learn?

    The updated educational guidelines also prescribe that schools do not adopt learning materials with a discriminatory bias or negative stereotypes based on gender, sexual orientation or disability.

    Coursework may vary, but local school districts, parents and teachers might consider including in history courses lessons such as:

    • When students learn about the Holocaust and how the Nazis killed millions of Jews, they might also learn that Hitler targeted and killed people simply because they were gay or lesbian, or Romani, or had disabilities, or because of their beliefs, such as being a Communist or a Jehovah’s Witness.
    • Students could learn about the public debate that led to the 1993 passage of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, where people were not allowed to serve in the U.S. military if they were openly gay or lesbian. Then they would also learn about the repeal of this policy in 2011.
    • Students currently learn about César Chávez and the farm worker’s rights movement, Susan B. Anthony and how women won the right to vote, and Martin Luther King Jr. who worked for and died for civil rights. Now they could also learn about Harvey Milk and how he worked to advance gay rights, and that he was also assassinated.
  • Will these lessons include information about sex?
    Under these updated guidelines, students will learn age-appropriate facts about what really happened in history, but lessons will not include the intimate details of historical figures’ lives. Lessons about morality or sex are not part of the guidelines and are left entirely for parents to discuss with their kids at home.
  • What is the historical scholarship backing up these changes?
    Education about LGBT people is not new to K-12 curricula, even if it is new to the state’s subject matter content standards.  Making the Framework FAIR (2014) provided the California Department of Education a comprehensive review of the curriculum revisions required by the FAIR Education Act. It was edited by Don Romesburg, Ph.D., Leila J. Rupp, Ph.D., and David M. Donahue, Ph.D. – professors at Sonoma State University, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mills College, respectively – and includes contributions from 17 noted historians. From the Executive summary:

    Social science education researchers have deemed a transformational approach the best practice for integrating diversity into frameworks and curricula. Such an approach expands students’ abilities to understand gender and sexuality as changing historical categories and as lenses for historical and contemporary analysis. It also reflects accurately the ways that professional historians have come to understand historical LGBT roles and contributions.

    This report was produced by the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History (CLGBTH), an affiliated society of the American Historical Association, in partnership with Our Family Coalition, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and an anonymous donor.

 

The FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition


Convened in 2014 by Our Family Coalition, over a half a dozen state and national organizations comprise the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition, and have worked since 2014 to see this historic education reform thoroughly implemented, from its status in legislation, to curricular framework, to textbook adoption, to school district-by-school district and classroom-by-classroom implementation.


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