New Jersey is the second state to mandate that all public schools make their curriculum “LGBT and disability-inclusive.”
Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation on Thursday, which modeled a similar law that California passed in 2011.
The recently-passed legislation says that every board of education in the state must ensure the course material for middle schools and high schools accurately reflects “the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, where appropriate.”
Murphy said it was his honor to sign legislation making it mandatory for schools to create lesson plans “about the rich contributions and accomplishments of our LGBTQ community and those with disabilities.”
“The Governor believes that ensuring students learn about diverse histories will help build more tolerant communities and strengthen educational outcomes,” Murphy’s office said in a statement.
The legislation will go into effect beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, and would require middle school and high school social studies programs in public schools to update their curriculum before the start of the academic year.
Leaders of pro-gay groups say the legislation would give children a broader view of U.S. history.
“Young people are learning about LGBT people already in schools but their identities are hidden,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, which advocated for the bill over several assembly sessions. “Figures like Bayard Rustin, who was the right-hand man to Martin Luther King, Jr. for civil rights, was a gay man.”
But some organizations say the law takes away the rights of the parents to discuss sensitive topics like sexuality with their children.
“We believe it further erodes the right of parents to discuss this sensitive issue with their children, if in fact, schools are going to be promoting and making the claim that this particular person was an LGBTQ member,” Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, told the North Jersey Record.
Deo added that prominent LGBT individuals should be included in lesson plans based on their achievements, but their sexual orientation should not be discussed.
New Jersey is the second state to pass such legislation requiring an LGBT-inclusive curriculum. California was the first state to do so, passing the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education (FAIR) Act in 2011. The legislation took effect on January 1, 2012.
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