Nevada students may soon get to learn about LGBTQ history

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Only 15% of LGBTQ students in Nevada have access to an inclusive curriculum.

The Nevada Legislature sent a bill to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak for signature on Tuesday that requires school districts to make certain that K-12 students are instructed on LGBTQ people's history and contributions to the arts, humanities, and sciences.

If it is enacted, A.B. 261 would also mandate that students be educated on the history and contributions of Native American people, people with disabilities, people of a diverse set of racial and ethnic backgrounds, people of all kinds of socioeconomic statuses, and immigrants and refugees.

In Nevada, only 15% of LGBTQ students were provided with positive representations of LGBTQ people or history in instruction, according to a 2019 National School Climate Survey conducted by GLSEN, a group that advocates for better school environments for LGBTQ youth.

The majority of Nevada LGBTQ students have also heard negative comments, such as homophobic and transphobic remarks, in schools, GLSEN reported.

Across the U.S., LGBTQ students in schools with an inclusive curriculum are less likely to hear such negative remarks or feel they aren't safe at school compared to students in schools without inclusive instruction.

If the governor signs the bill into law, Nevada would be the sixth state to have educational standards for LGBTQ-affirming instruction. As of 2020, California, Oregon, Illinois, Colorado, and New Jersey had enacted similar bills, while Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama had what are referred to as "No Promo Homo" laws forbidding positive representations of LGBTQ people in school curriculums and activities.

Alabama got rid of its 1992 "No Promo Homo" law in April 2021 when Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed a bill that killed requirements for teachers to teach kids that "homosexual conduct" is illegal in the state and that being gay, lesbian, and bisexual is "not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public."

According to the GLSEN map, most states have neither standards for LGBTQ-inclusive classrooms nor anti-LGBTQ education laws.

The Nevada Legislature passed its curriculum bill amidst a push from national anti-LGBTQ groups to enact a torrent of legislation targeting sexual minorities, trans, and nonbinary people. More than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures in 2021 and at least 17 bills have been enacted, according to a May 7 legislative analysis from the Human Rights Campaign.

Two of the bills signed into law by Republican governors this year make it harder for students to learn about LGBTQ people and relationships in schools, the organization said.

In May, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed S.B. 1229, which says schools must give advance notice to parents and guardians that they intend to teach students about issues of gender identity and sexual orientation and allow them to opt their students out of the lessons without it affecting their academic performance.

Christopher Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, told the American Independent Foundation in April that the law would send a harmful, stigmatizing message to LGBTQ students.

In April, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed S.B. 99, a similar bill that also requires that curriculum materials on sex education be made available for the public to look over before they are used in a classroom.

In response to the Nevada Legislature's passing of the curriculum bill, GLSEN interim Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers stated, "This year, we've seen record numbers of harmful anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced across the country. But Nevada's new law offers a powerful contrast and shows us that a better way is not only possible, but already in motion."

They added, "I hope that lawmakers and school leaders across the country follow Nevada's lead and take swift action to invest in LGBTQ+ students' well-being."

It's not yet known whether the governor plans to sign the bill, but Sisolak has a history of defending LGBTQ rights.

In 2018, when he was Clark County commissioner and running for governor, an anti-trans group pointed out that the Clark County School District approved trans-inclusive policies for bathrooms and other facilities.

He tweeted about his general election opponent at the time, Adam Laxalt, and said, "An enemy of the trans community is an enemy of equality, and your silence speaks volumes. Desperate political appeals to bigotry have no place in our nation."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.