Respect Equality

Miami schools reject proposal to recognize October as LGBTQ+ History Month

Board members during a Wednesday evening meeting voted 8-1 to reject the proposal.

Story at a glance

  • Miami-Dade school board members on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would have recognized October as LGBTQ+ History Month and incorporate lessons about two landmark LGBTQ+ Supreme Court cases into a U.S. government course for 12th-grade students.

  • The proposal had argued that teaching LGBTQ+ history fosters a more inclusive learning environment for school staff, students and their families.

  • Conservative groups including the Proud Boys and district parents said the proposal sought to “indoctrinate” children and violated a new state education law.

Miami-Dade school board members Wednesday evening rejected a proposal to recognize October as LGBTQ+ History Month and add lessons about landmark Supreme Court rulings that enshrined LGBTQ+ rights like marriage equality to a 12th-grade U.S. government course.

Board members on Wednesday voted 8-1 to reject the proposal, with member Lucia Baez Geller, who introduced the measure, casting the sole dissenting vote. The school district celebrated LGBTQ+ History Month last October.

Geller’s proposal had argued that teaching LGBTQ+ history “fosters a welcoming school climate” where all staff and students and their families are able to live authentically and are “treated with dignity and respect.”

Members of the public who backed the measure said during Wednesday’s school board meeting that teaching LGBTQ+ history would help create an affirming environment for queer students, who often feel stigmatized or isolated because of their identity.

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A report issued last year by the LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project found that LGBTQ+ young people who learned about prominent LGBTQ+ figures or issues in school were far less likely to report a past-year suicide attempt than those who did not.

One Miami-Dade Public Schools graduate urged board members on Wednesday to adopt the measure so current students would not feel the same isolation he felt as an LGBTQ+ student years ago.

“I can tell you as a gay child, I felt completely alone,’’ he said, the Miami Herald reported.

A petition for the school district to recognize LGBTQ+ History Month in October garnered nearly 800 signatures in the lead-up to Wednesday’s board meeting.

“In light of the harmful anti-LGBTQ laws passed this year, it is abundantly clear that [the school district] must remain steadfast in supporting and affirming all students,” the petition, organized by the LGBTQ+ nonprofit PRISM FL, stated.

Hundreds of bills targeting LGBTQ+ people have been introduced in state legislatures across the country this year, according to groups including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Many of them would restrict how LGBTQ+ issues and identities are talked about in school.

Baez Geller’s proposal would have also charged the school district’s superintendent with exploring the feasibility of incorporating two landmark Supreme Court decisions: Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.; and Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that employers cannot discriminate against their employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity — into the curriculum of an existing 12th grade U.S. government course.

“These Supreme Court cases guarantee fundamental constitutional rights, and it is imperative that students have access to a comprehensive view of landmark civil rights cases and suffrage movements in the United States,” the proposal stated.

But on Wednesday, a majority of board members of the nation’s fourth-largest school district said otherwise, siding with conservative groups — including members of the Proud Boys — and parents that argued the measure sought to “indoctrinate” schoolchildren.

Some said the proposal would infringe on the right of parents to teach their children about LGBTQ+ identities and would violate the newly implemented Parental Rights in Education law, which bars public primary school teachers from engaging in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by its critics, also prevents educators through high school from addressing either concept in a manner that is not “age appropriate” for their students. The legislation does not clearly define what is considered “age appropriate” and what is not.

Geller on Wednesday said anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric had been used by far-right politicians in Florida to ignite their base during an election year.

“The anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is a tool used by some to spread misinformation,” she said, the Miami Herald reported. “This is just plain disinformation.”

Miami-Dade school board members earlier this summer rejected two previously approved textbooks on reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases. 

Parents had argued that the learning materials did not comply with the state’s new education law because they were not “age appropriate” for middle school or high school students.