Lawmakers Push to Include LGBT, Disability Rights Movements in School Lessons

Photo by Horia Varian/Flickr

A group of state lawmakers wants Maryland’s superintendent of schools to update social studies curricula to include lessons on the disability rights and LGBT rights movements.

Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) organized the letter, which was signed by 34 other delegates and 13 senators.

“As a former history teacher, I know the importance of kids being able to see themselves in the curriculum they’re taught,” Luedtke tweeted. “Thanks to all who signed on!”

The move comes as several other states have passed laws to include curriculum focused on LGBT Americans and other groups that were historically underrepresented in lesson plans.

Luedtke organized the letter in deference to the Maryland General Assembly’s longstanding reluctance to legislate curriculum.

The state of California was the first to pass a law mandating LGBT curriculum in 2011. Similar laws expanding curriculum to include LGBT and other communities took effect this year in New Jersey, Colorado and Oregon. A bill passed in Illinois is awaiting action by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D).

Other states, including Alabama, Arizona and Utah, have moved in recent years to remove restrictions on LGBT content in school curricula.

Luedtke said when he reviewed Maryland’s existing history standards, there were glaring gaps when it came to the gay rights and disability rights movements.

“…The standards fail to address in any way the development of civil rights for LGBT Americans and for Americans with disabilities. These are important stories for our teachers to tell, 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,” he wrote in the letter to Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon this week.

Openly gay lawmakers Del. Luke V. Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery), Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), and Sen. Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City) are among those who signed the letter, with their names listed right below Luedtke’s.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, which brought greater national attention to the gay rights movement and the 47th anniversary of the founding of the first Center for Independent Living by the disability rights activist Ed Roberts, Luedtke said.

“Surely, half a century later, we can find room in our social studies curriculum to ensure that we are teaching the complete story of America,” Luedtke wrote.

The Maryland State Department of Education did not respond to voicemails about the letter on Wednesday, but Luedtke said he’s heard from the department and expects a formal response early next week.

“We would hope that the Department could move quickly to enact these updates and that stories like those of the Stonewall Riots, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and of important leaders like Harvey Milk, Ed Roberts and Judy Heumann can be told soon in our classrooms,” the letter stated.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Where are the materials on the history of disability rights? Most English/History Teachers have an ability to include these in lessons if the materials (including primary sources) are readily available on the internet.

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