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LAUSD Gay Curriculum to Help End Gay Suicides and Cyberbullying?

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It has been almost a year after Spirit Day where Twitter and Facebook turned purple on October 20th, in honor of the gay teenagers who have taken their own lives last year as a result of anti-gay bullying. Asher Brown, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase, Cody J. Barker, Harrison Chase Brown, Caleb Nolt, Billy Lucas, Jeanine Blanchette and Chantal Dube are some of the gay suicides that occurred in the past year.

If those individuals were here today and enrolled within the Los Angeles Unified School District, things might have been a bit different. On Tuesday the school board approved a proposal in line with the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, a state mandate stemming from Senate Bill 48 to implement curriculum that portrays LGBT (and persons with disabilities) in a positive light. Within the next three months all staff will be trained to teach age-appropriate gay history and promote positive images of those communities.

This is the first time a school district in California has mandated a gay curriculum.

"Through this resolution and LAUSD's ongoing commitment to creating safe and affirming schools for LGBT youth, we want our youth to feel that school is a protective factor, not a risk factor," said Board Member Steve Zimmer, who introduced the FAIR Act motion and represents the 4th District, which includes West Hollywood. "We won't rest until all students are safe."

As LAUSD pioneers the gay curriculum in hopes to offer equality and end anti-gay bullying, some LAUSD teachers believe that this change may not have a dramatic effect on the bullying issue.

"It will ultimately be up to how comfortable teachers are with the new curriculum," said Erika Kon, a teacher at Skirball Middle School. "If they are not, the problem will persist."

"It has the potential to positively-effect kids and the way they tolerate and treat each other, but a lot of it comes from the parents," said Lisa Malek, a teacher at Westwood Elementary School. "If the students see their parents making homophobic jokes, then they are going to think it is funny and ok."

Although the LAUSD board members are for the curriculum, there are those who oppose the FAIR education act. A group called Stop SB 48 is currently attempting to overturn the act by getting signatures to create a ballot measure, scheduled to go in effect January.

Both parties for and against SB 48 have utilized social networking sites such as YouTube to put up videos of their beliefs and have created Facebook groups to share and network with others.

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Arika Sato is a graduate student at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which has partnered with KCET-TV to produce this blog about policy in Los Angeles.

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user jglsongs. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

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