A Canyon High School senior is asking Hart district officials to speed up their process for including the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans into Santa Clarita Valley junior high and high school social studies classes.
Andrew Taban, 17, is involved with several advocacy groups, and spoke at several Hart district board meetings after the topic was brought up among several student groups, he said.
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“When you see someone like you in history, you feel like there’s a chance for you,” Taban said. “It also gives a normality to who you are.”
The William S. Hart Union High School District is in compliance with the FAIR Education Act, said Vicki Engbrecht, Hart district assistant superintendent for educational services. The Hart district oversees about 22,000 public junior high and high school students in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The act, which was signed into law in 2011, calls for curriculum changes, but it sets no real deadline for curriculum changes as long as the current material is not discriminatory, said Judy Chiasson, coordinator in the office of human relation, diversity and equity for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“It has two components: One is the removal of anything that promotes bias, part two is the inclusion of positive representations of the contributions of the LGBT Americans, persons with disabilities and Pacific Islanders,” she said, among other groups.
She compared the changes the law mandates to when emission standards are changed on cars — the changes wouldn’t affect cars already on the road — but new textbooks are expected to be inclusive.
Hart district officials have not adopted new history or social studies textbooks in the last 10 years, Engbrecht said, noting there’s an extensive process undertaken when that happens, which includes community and teacher input.
Part of the reason is the state put the adoption of new textbooks on hold until 2015, and money for new textbooks has been an issue, Engbrecht said. Officials are looking to update math textbooks now, and expect to look at history and social studies texts in the summer of 2015.
Officials began to put away money for new textbook expenditures when the Great Recession started, and is looking at using those funds for the purchases, she said.
In the meantime, whenever teachers can incorporate FAIR Education Act-compliant material into their curriculum, that’s what they’re supposed to do, Engbrecht said.
The board instituted policy to reflect the law, Engbrecht said, and in response to Taban’s request, Engbrecht met with the affected department heads in the Hart district to make sure they were aware of the law.
Taban has met with Engbrecht and discussed his concerns, requesting the district use free material LAUSD incorporates into its classrooms, some of which Chiasson has made available on an LAUSD website.
The local adoption of these materials would mean a lot to the LGBT community, Taban said, who said students in the gay-straight alliances on several campuses have noticed a lack of inclusion in the classroom. Taban is the only student or stakeholder Engbrecht has heard concerns from on this subject, she said.
West Ranch, Canyon, Hart and Saugus high schools all have active Gay Straight Alliance groups, while Valencia recently closed its group for the year, and Golden Valley’s group is currently inactive, Taban said.
Taban said he’s asking about this for many other students he’s spoken with and himself. He added many students aren’t as comfortable openly discussing the issue.
“(The Gay Straight Alliances) meet with students, students who are not out yet and students having everyday struggles… they want this curriculum, they want it to be taught and they want to see this in their classroom,” Taban said. “The reason why is when you see someone that represents you, it gives you kind of a hope and face for the future.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News