Teaching LGBT History

Women's and Gender Studies Professor Don Romesburg Hails New LGBT California Public Schools Framework as 'Most Inclusive in Country'
July 15, 2016
Don Romesburg

Thanks in part to years of work by Sonoma State University Women's and Gender Studies Professor Don Romesburg, California's students will soon be learning more about the history of LGBT people and their struggles. On Thursday, the California State Board of Education approved the new K-12 History-Social Science Framework, which includes history of LGBT people and the LGBT Civil Right Movement. "At the national level, this framework is by far the most LGBT inclusive in the country," says Romesburg. "It will transform the way educators teach and all California's students learn about US history."

Since May 2013, Romesburg has steered a rigorous effort to recommend revisions of the California K-12 History - Social Science Framework. At the time, Romesburg was co-chair of the Committee on LGBT History, a national affiliated society of the American Historical Association.

California has been at the forefront of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement in America, and this framework ensures that this historic effort will not go unnoticed by future generations. "History education is all about training future citizens," says Romesburg. "By incorporating LGBT history into what our students learn, they're really learning how to be better citizens for our diverse society in California."

Newspapers around the world have been reporting the story, from the United States to the UK to Indonesia. "California is proving itself to be a global leader in how LGBT rights and equality is understood," says Romesburg, noting that he was pleasantly surprised by the widespread coverage of the Board of Education's approval.

California made history in July 2011 when Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. The legislation amended California's Education Code to require that the roles and contributions of LGBT people and people with disabilities be accurately portrayed in K-12 history teaching and instructional materials.

Though California is the first state to pass such a framework for public schools, students in other states could soon see more LGBT history in their classrooms--even if the states don't require it. "California, because of its size, has a big influence on textbooks and other materials that are distributed around the country," says Romesburg.

LGBT history is already part of the discussion in Romesburg's classes at Sonoma State. "I had been using parts of the framework in the classroom to talk to students about what they know about LGBT history, and why don't they know what they don't know," he says. "It's great example of the difference between what gets taught in U.S. history and what that history actually is."

"This is a big win for our students," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement. "This document will improve the teaching and learning of history and social science. It will give our students access to the latest historical research and help them learn about the diversity of our state and the contributions of people and groups who may not have received the appropriate recognition in the past."

The Framework provides guidance to teachers, administrators, and publishers for the teaching of history and social science. It includes more than 20 detailed classroom examples that show teachers how they can integrate their instruction to build students' history-social science knowledge and skills, literacy skills, and English language development.

Romesburg, who has been working on this issue for years, was quoted in several news articles around the world about Thursday's California vote, from Los Angeles to Jakarta, Indonesia.

Here is a round up of some of those news stories:

LA Times

San Francisco Chronicle

Pink News (UK)

Long Beach Press-Telegram

ABC News

Jakarta Post (Indonesia)

Mercury News

Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Portland Press Herald (ME)

Tuscaloosa News

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FOX News Sacramento

Panel: Schools failing to teach gay, lesbian history, Press Democrat, October 19, 2014

Media Contact

Nicolas Grizzle