San Francisco High School To Offer LGBT History Class

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Gay rights protesters in New York City, protesting at the United States' 1976 Democratic National Convention

A San Francisco high school will offer a new college prep course that will cover topics such as the gay rights movement, the AIDS crisis, the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, and historic events such as the Stonewall Riot and the legalization of same-sex marriage.

LGBT history at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts is the first course like this in any San Francisco public school and unheard of in almost any other public high school nationwide.

“This is history. This is an experience that happened,” said teacher Lyndsey Schlax. “How can we not teach history? That’s what we do.”

But not only is it a high school class – it also counts for college credit at the University of California. The university approved the elective history course earlier this week, meaning it can count toward the list of prerequisite courses required for admission into the UC system.

The San Francisco School District has been expanding it’s efforts lately to offer more culturally competent courses in its high schools. The school board voted in December 2014 to require every high school to offer ethnic studies courses.

The board voted in 2010 to expanding support for LGBT students, including the creation of a course. However, board member Sandra Fewer tells the San Francisco Gate that when the recession hit, the effort was largely put on hold because of budget cuts.

“I’m glad we’re picking it up again as we get more money,” said Fewer, who sponsored the 2010 resolution. “I think this class is very interesting.”

Schlax told the San Francisco Gate that she is spending the summer creating lesson plans. She wants students to look at historical eras — say the Harlem Renaissance — and consider how gay men and women had an impact. She also wants students to see how the LGBT community has been portrayed in pop culture, in the movies, in history.

“Or, how did World War II help create the gay enclave in San Francisco?” Schlax said. “It has to do with how the war ended — people ending up in San Francisco after. People finding each other. People not necessarily wanting to return” to where they came from.

Schlax got a grant to pay for 40 audio and video players so students can listen to podcasts or watch videos related to the content. Those might include clips from the old “Odd Couple” television show or of Disney villains with speech patterns associated with gay men to show how Hollywood has dealt with gay stereotypes through the decades.

She also emphasized that the course doesn’t include sex education. “The gay rights movement and the history of the LGBT community isn’t about physical acts,” she said.

“People always think it’s about the sex. It’s not about sex,” “What drove those movements was making the world a better place, a more peaceful place.”

“As the mother of a gay child, I’m very sensitive to the issues of our LGBT youth,” she said. The course offers “a deeper understanding. It separates fact from fiction.”

 

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Brad Delaney
Brad is President and Co-Founder of One Million Kids For Equality. An active voice in the LGBT movement for many years, Brad has worked on campaigns such as legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington State, petition campaigns to remove hateful anti-lgbt games from numerous app stores, as well as a successful effort to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 in the United States Senate.

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