LGBTQ history to be taught in Illinois public schools starting next year

Illinois public schools to teach LGBTQ history next year

SPINGFIELD, Ill. — Students in Illinois public schools will learn LGBTQ history starting next year, thanks to a bill signed Friday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The new law mandates that history curriculum in public schools include the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Illinois and the U.S. The lessons must be taught to students before they complete the eighth grade, The Chicago Tribune reported.

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"One of the best ways to overcome intolerance is through education and exposure to different people and viewpoints," Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans, of Chicago, one of the bill's Senate sponsors, said in a statement. "An inclusive curriculum will not only teach an accurate version of history but also promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community."

Topics that will be added to the new curriculum include the formation of the nation's first gay rights organization, the Society for Human Rights, in 1924 in Chicago, and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, who was a lesbian, CNN reported.

Illinois public schools are already required to teach students about the history of other minority and ethnic groups, including African-Americans and Hispanics, according to The Tribune.

A 2015 survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network showed nearly 70 percent of LGBTQ students in Illinois have been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, Steans' statement said.

“It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment,” Steans said.

The new law will take effect starting with the 2020-2021 school year.

The text of the bill can be read here.