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Illinois Senate passes mandatory LGBT history curriculum for schools

Illinois state senators passed an amended bill Wednesday that would require lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history to be taught in public schools.

The measure, which has no funding component, next goes to the House. It mandates LGBT history be worked into U.S. and state history curriculum in schools.

State Sen. Heather Steans amended Senate Bill 3249 to ease concerns from opponents, she said.

“It requires the study on the roles and contributions of LGBT people and the history of this state and the country,” Steans, D-Chicago, said. “We’ve made a lot of changes based on a lot of input, which I appreciate, and it’s incorporating it just in the study of history like it does for many other populations in this state.”

Despite the changes, state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, remained opposed. He said there’s still concerns about added mandates with no funding.

“There’s also concerns about religious freedom in regard to folks who may have a difference of opinion with regard to how this is handled on a curriculum basis,” Weaver said.

The measure is limited to public schools. It wouldn’t apply to private or religious schools.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said the bill is not a new mandate and simply weaves LGBT contributions into existing school curriculum.

“I think it ensures simply that the history that is taught is factual and accurate,” Barickman said.

Steans said her bill will help students who feel isolated.

“What we find is that there’s an enormous drop, 36 percent drop, in people feeling bullied and getting derogatory remarks made about them when they’re included in the curriculum,” Steans said.

Locally elected school board members want decide what is taught in their schools rather than be told what students should learn from lawmakers in Springfield, said Zach Messersmith, director of government relations for the Illinois Association of School Boards.

“We have a clear directive from our membership to oppose all curricular mandates that come before the General Assembly,” he said. “We believe that locally elected school boards should be able to determine curricula for their students as long as it meets Illinois Learning Standards.”

This story was republished with permission from the Illinois News Network.