by Vendela Krenkel (‘20)
Maryland school officials are considering adding the fight for civil rights of LGBTQ and disabled people to the curriculum, and not just in social studies. First reported in the Washington Post, officials plan to focus on the histories of both of these groups, including events such as the 1969 Stonewall riots, the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage.
Following the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, 48 Maryland legislators signed a letter that recognizes that the histories of civil rights for LGBTQ and disabled communities “are important stories for our teachers to tell, not only for those students who [currently lack representation], but so all of our students have a basic understanding of the challenges faced by significant segments of American society.” Officials hope to provide a greater sense of belonging among students that belong to these demographics, as well as foster an environment of acceptance in Maryland schools.
MCPS has taken a progressive approach and plans to go further with inclusion, promoting implementation of diverse student experiences in all subjects and combating the tendency of history curriculums to leave out the stories of certain groups.
“The idea of civil rights should extend far beyond what is currently taught in schools,” said social studies teacher Christine McKeldin. “Each group deserves to have their stories heard and every student should be able to see themselves in [the] curriculum.”
According to the Washington Post, the supervisor of MCPS communications, Gboyinde Onijala, said that in the near future, there may also be greater representation in texts read in English classes as well. English teacher Christopher Goodrich has taught his sophomore students “The Laramie Project,” a play that follows the true story of the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, in the 90s. As the possibilities for more stories that will provide a wider spectrum of experiences expand, Goodrich hopes to stir “productive inquiry and debate, and allow [students] to empathize with others [who have different experiences].”
However, controversy has arisen over this topic. Some conservative parents argue that each parent should have the ability to teach their children about sexuality and gender at home, that it is not the responsibility of the school to instruct students on these subjects. These parents worry that, were the school to teach these topics, they would not be able to remain fair and unbiased.