Peoria Schools prepare fall launch of LGBTQ curriculum

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PEORIA, Ill. — With the goal of providing more LGBTQ-friendly education to grades kindergarten through 12 starting in fall 2021, the Peoria School District 150 Board of Education on Monday night received an update from its Legacy Virtual Advisory Committee.

Legacy refers to the Chicago-based Legacy Project, which created the Legacy Project Education Initiative which, according to its website, aims to “inspire young people who have been forced to grow up without the benefit of historically significant LGBTQ role models.”

The district in 2020 decided to adopt the curriculum in order to satisfy the requirement set forth by Illinois House Bill 246, which mandates “the teaching of history of the United States shall include a study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State.”

Committee Co-Chair Becca Mathis shared data from Youth Risk Behavior surveys and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Adolescent and School Health that showed 48% of students who identify as LGBTQ+ have seriously considered suicide.

“The goal of implementing more inclusive curriculum is to make sure students feel they are learning in a more safe environment, and they also feel like they are connected and a part of their schools,” Mathis said.

“It’s important to let these children having identity [crises], sitting in class who can’t focus on their curriculum, understand there are people just like them that made a ginormous difference in their life,” added Co-Chair Deric Kimler.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of many, many LGBTQ people in our history that didn’t just pave the way for LGBTQ individuals, but all of us here.

“We stand on the shoulders of Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin and Marsha P. Johnson. We stand on the shoulders of George Washington Carver, Friedrich Von Steuben, and many more.”

They said the committee has taken a three-pronged approach to its professional development.

The first prong, SafeZone Training, aims to teach school administration, counselors, social workers, special education coordinators, and social studies and history teachers about LGBTQ+ identities, gender and sexuality, examine prejudice and assumptions, and also to empower the trainees to feel more comfortable in applying what they’ve learned in real situations. Those who have yet to be trained on it, the committee co-chairs said, will be able to get the training over the summer.

The second prong involves community outreach and engagement.

The third prong is the actual implementation of the curriculum. The committee said that wouldn’t be done until all staff is properly trained, with a goal of completing the training by May 28.

“The goal of the trainings that will be provided related to the Legacy curriculum and the resources available are really to equip school administration as well as the actual teachers who will be integrating these lesson plans into their existing curriculum, helping them to understand how to use this tool to its largest extent,” said Mathis.

Mathis said committee members have been meeting with every single building administrator within the district to make sure they understand the expectations and resources that come with the curriculum.

The co-chairs concluded their presentation by recommending the district next take two steps: the district take a clear stance on being an inclusive school, and to evolve the current committee to a more generation district diversity and inclusion committee.

The committee said the district can take the stance on inclusion through anti-discrimination language, an affirmative statement regarding gender identity, and an organizational statement.

via 1470 & 100.3 WMBD

May 11, 2021 at 10:38PM

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