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The task force report from the Public Policy Center of the University of Iowa regarding LGBTQ students in the Iowa City Community School District made “enhancing the inclusiveness of the curriculum” a big goal.
In fact, the task force calls it an “essential component” of any effort to create safe and LGBTQ-inclusive schools.
The hope is that including positive representations of LGBTQ-related topics in the curriculum will positively affect LGBTQ students.
One claim by the report is that there are “substantial percentages” of students who report there are no opportunities in class to talk about gender, sexual orientation beyond heterosexuality, and transgender identity.
“The task force saw enhancing the inclusiveness of the curriculum in the ICCSD as a necessary step for the district to take in order to support LGBTQ students and educate all students about LGBTQ-related topics,” it said.
And this is how it can be done:
1. Invest in the integration of an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum
2. Adapt current content
3. Make libraries more LGBTQ-inclusive
4. Incorporate inclusive teaching practices
More money for new curriculum, that’s what the task force says is needed.
“The strategy that garnered the most support from the Task Force was to invest in LGBTQ-inclusive curricula, resources, textbooks, literature, and exercises into every grade and subject area.”
One of the best ways to ensure curricular materials are inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation diversity, it said, is to purchase recently developed materials that reflect “advances in knowledge and societal awareness related to the LGBTQ issues.”
“The lack of inclusion in curriculum materials and content can be a clear signal to students that people similar to themselves, who share their characteristics or identities, are not important enough to be included,” the report states.
One student task force member said, “why isn’t my history talked about with everyone else’s?”
The report also called for updating the curriculum review process. The task force recommended the existing district process be used strategically to make the curriculum across all subjects more LGBTQ-inclusive.
“Specific ways to do this are to ensure that the curriculum review self-study committee members represent diverse perspectives, and include input from content specialists, individuals who identify as LGBTQ, and students,” it states.
Task force members were “certain” that LGBTQ inclusivity could be applied at ALL grade levels and across ALL subjects.
“They saw potential for including LGBTQ material into the Common Core structure, through the use of existing scaffolding in a developmentally appropriate way,” the report states. “For example, adapting curriculum for kindergartners about family structure to include same-sex parents and other diverse family structures.”
ICCSD health classes cover “human sexuality including male and female reproductive systems,” according to current syllabi the report says. Task force members discussed the importance of including information about “diverse sexualities and genders” in health and sex ed classes, emphasizing that LGBTQ issues and needs should be included in safe sex and self-care practices. They also specifically emphasized the need to clarify the difference between sex and gender in class (i.e. teaching that gender is a social construct).
In addition, task force members suggest starting health education before high school.
Later in the report, task force members strongly advocate for adjusting the current administrative process to be inclusive of LGBTQ student identities and experiences. One way to do this is by using a student’s authentic name, gender identity and pronoun in student records.
A student’s “authentic name” and pronouns should be the default name displayed for any situations (i.e. class roster, student ID card) that do not require a legal name, the report states. Task force members don’t refer to “preferred pronouns” or “preferred name” because it is “not fully supportive of students because it implies that a students’ gender identity is a choice.
The task force did recognize legal issues with potential changes to school records. One issue, it says, is the balancing of authority and rights between students and parents.
“Determining who has the authority to change and know students’ authentic name and pronouns is both highly personal and sensitive but is also a legal issue,” the report says. “Accommodations might need to be made for a student who wants to change their name or pronouns in their student records, but also wishes to keep that information confidential from parents or guardians.”