Going back to school in Illinois? Students may be learning something new this year.
Recently Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that requires all Illinois school systems to teach the history of the LGBTQ+ movement in the United States and the contributions that members of the LGBTQ+ have had on the development of the US as it is today.
This is in stark contrast to the President’s ruling that the pride flag not fly in US embassies during June, which is considered ‘Pride Month’ to remember the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan.
House Bill 346 was passed earlier this year by the state House, and states that educational materials for the state teach “the role and contributions” of the LGBTQ+ community “in the history of this country and this State”.
The state of Illinois publishes a list of textbooks each year that schools are allowed to choose from and teach with. This ensures that all students in the state receive roughly the same education.
It’s expected that the new list will include books that teach the history of the community and the struggles that they have faced in order to get there.
Many people are asking Illinois why. Why the change, why the trend-setting? Illinois is one of the three ‘strongest’ Democratic states in the US, alongside California and New York, but they aren’t exactly known for being a forward player when it comes to lawmaking.
A study that was done by GLSEN, a US-based organization that promotes inclusion and awareness in school systems, in 2017 stated that 61% of all LGBTQ+ students in the state of Illinois faced verbal harassment due to their sexual orientation or gender expression.
This is a lot of kids, and Illinois lawmakers clearly saw a problem with it.
A co-sponsor of the bill, Democratic Senator Heather Steans, said it was one of the “best ways” to overcome the intolerance that students are facing in their school lives.
She and others who support the bill say that it is all about creating a safer environment for these students with fewer incidents of harassment or bullying.
Equality Illinois, a nonprofit group, went as far as to say that this was a “life-saving law” that put Illinois on the “right side of history”.
LGBTQ+ youths are three times more likely to contemplate taking their own life, and five times more likely to attempt to do so. The hope is that laws just like this one will foster understanding and respect in schools so that students are less likely to take such drastic measures.