EducationLocalWilliam J. Ford

Md. Students to Learn LGBTQ, Disability Rights History

Maryland public school students may begin learning about the history of LGBTQ and disability rights by next year.

Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery County), who pushed for the state Department of Education to incorporate the class, said the coursework would be designated for high school students.

Luedtke, a former middle school history teacher, said the lessons would be part of the state’s 20th century history curriculum for high school students.

“We do a good job in Maryland in teaching about major civil rights movement for Blacks and Latinos and women, but we have left out these two groups,” he said during an interview Friday, Aug. 16. “We want to tell the whole story in our history classes.”

He said costs to include the classes would be minimal, possibly for teaching training, because the state conducts periodical updates to the curriculum.

The lawmaker received support from 43 lawmakers for a letter Luedtke sent to the department last month. The topics include the Stonewall Inn riots in New York City, which took place in June 1969 when police raided a gay club and the patrons fought back. That event is credited with leading the modern gay rights movement.

“It’s critically important for people to understand everyone’s struggles and education is a key to that,” said Del. Jazz Lewis (D-District 24) of Landover, one of six lawmakers from Prince George’s County to back the measure. “It should’ve been added a long time ago. You can’t just decide what parts of your community matter. You should learn about it all.”

A state department spokesperson didn’t respond to emails for comment.

If completed by the 2020-21 school year, Maryland would join a handful of states to include LGTBQ education in public schools. The state of California’s school board voted in May on a proposal to overhaul its education curriculum. For instance, teachers would be allowed to offer instruction on gender identity with kindergarteners and teenagers to practice safe sex.

D.C. area school systems incorporated rules, regulations and provisions for LGBTQ students and parents.

Last year, the Fairfax County school board in Virginia voted to boost its sex education curriculum to include “transgender” among gender identity and add “bisexual and homosexual” under sexual orientation.

D.C. Public Schools held a seventh annual pre-conference Leading With Pride summit in March for parents with trans-identified and queer children in kindergarten through fifth grade. The school system also joined nine other school districts nationwide to provide staff with “OUT for Safe” badges to support youth.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in connection with the University of Connecticut, released a LGBTQ youth report last year which noted only 26 percent of students feel safe in school. Another 5 percent surveyed believe their teachers and school staff support LGBTQ people.

‘Learning Begins at Birth’

Advocates have praised states for improving education curriculum and incorporate LGBTQ history.

David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, which seeks to eradicate racism and homophobia, said the subject matter should be taught in elementary schools, but by competent instructors who not only can teach in theory, but through personal experience

For example, Johns, who taught on the elementary level, mentioned how “same-gender-loving” people contributed to the liberation, advancement and equity for other people, especially white women.

Johns said adults should discuss how “gender is not natural [but] assigned at birth that would allow us to have more conversations about what it means for people to be trans.”

In addition, they should discuss how Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera served as early activists in the LGBTQ movement, he said. The term “transgender” didn’t exist during their time.

Finally, he said, remember and say the names of youth such as Nigel Shelby, 15, and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, 11, who both died by suicide within weeks of each other in 2009 after enduring anti-gay taunts from their peers.

“Learning begins at birth,” Johns said. “More too often adults think that young people are not ready, or ill-equipped to have complex conversations about life. Young people begin to make sense of themselves in the world around them well before they have the language to describe it.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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