An advisory committee will soon be formed by Lodi Unified School District to develop a strategy for implementing Senate Bill 48 curriculum in its classrooms, as well as receive input and concerns from the community.
When the committee will be formed and how long it will convene remains to be seen.
However, during Tuesday night’s Lodi Unified Board of Education meeting, it was revealed the committee would be composed of parents, teachers, district support staff, students and community representatives.
Senate Bill 48, also known as the FAIR Education Act, is a California Law adopted in 2011 that asks school districts to include the political, economic and social contributions of people with disabilities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in social science curriculum.
Nearly two dozen teachers, parents and community members spoke in favor of implementing the curriculum, but worried forming a committee to figure out how to do that was another delay tactic.
At a previous meeting, some board members suggested “pumping the brakes” with regard to implementing the curriculum.
“I hope that this committee doesn’t have some sort of sinister agenda,” parent and teacher Lupe Cruz said. “I hope you reject the idea of burying this curriculum at the end of the semester just because some people don’t want it taught in schools. Many parents are paying attention to when and how this will be taught. We’ll be watching you.”
Other speakers echoed comments made at previous meetings that inclusionary curriculum in social science classes would be beneficial to students who identify as LGBTQ.
Parent Suzanne Simpson said many LGBTQ youngsters are not often supported by their families, and that school campuses have become their safe havens. She asked the board to imagine these students not being supported at school because their peers do not understand their sexual or gender identities.
Teaching that historical figures identified as LGBTQ would help all students be more understanding of their peers’ lifestyles, she said.
“It’s the responsibility of the school district to ensure that all students feel equal in schools,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do for students. As a society that is still struggling to understand these issues, we should not be taking a step backward.”
At previous meetings, concerns were raised by parents that the inclusionary curriculum would be too graphic for some of the district’s younger students, Some also raised concern that social science courses would be turned into sexual education classes.
Board president Gary Knackstedt said he trusted the professionalism of district teachers to present the materials in the way it is intended.
He also assured speakers that the curriculum will be implemented.
“I do know our teachers can do their jobs and know they will do the right thing,” he said. “All this committee is designed to do is come up with a strategy to implement it and address any concerns you all might have.”
Knackstedt added that he hoped the committee would be a temporary one, taking just a couple of months to gather the information it needs so the curriculum can be presented in classrooms as soon as possible.
Board member Ron Freitas said the district was not trying to sweep the issue under the rug, and that the committee would come up with solutions for implementation that will make all district parents and students happy.
“You have my pledge and the pledge of this board that this will be handled professionally and diligently,” he said. “This committee will be one of inclusion and acceptance. It will be one that suggests ideas, not placing labels. You’ll want to hold us accountable, and we want to be held accountable.”
No action was taken during Tuesday’s discussion. Specifics about the size of the committee and when it will begin convening will be discussed at a future board meeting.