The FAIR Education Act, SB 48: The Latest Battleground
by Belinda Dronkers-Laureta on September 16th, 2011

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

September 16, 2011

The FAIR Education Act, SB 48: The Latest Battleground


SB 48 Is The Law

We have been watching the FAIR Education Act ever since Governor Brown signed it into law on July 14 this year. It is a game changer and conservative groups have started a STOP SB 48 campaign. Yet the big guns of the Catholic and Mormon churches who were at the front of the Prop 8 war aren’t there to help campaign for a ballot initiative to repeal this one. Did they use up all they had with Prop 8, or are they saving their energy and treasure for another round of the marriage equality fight?

If you liked Prop 8, you’re going to hate SB 48. Sponsored by Senator Mark Leno, the FAIR Education Act requires that school districts teach all their students, from kindergarten up, about the role and contribution to society of LGBT American historical figures. It also forbids school districts from using materials that adversely reflect on LGBT persons. Parents cannot “opt-out” and it fires a warning shot across the bows of private and charter schools by having them “take notice of the provisions of this bill.” Needless to say that among those opposed to human rights, this bill is a dagger aimed at their heart.

Between A Law’s Intent And Its Implementation, There Falls The Shadow

Even though laws are preceded by people agitating for change, it is only laws that can anchor every large social change. But once a law is passed, more work, and perhaps the more difficult part of the work, has to happen. The people who oppose the change from the start aren’t going to go away; their objections must be continuously addressed. We have experience with this trying to implement AB 537, the Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, in our local school district. We were opposed every step of the way by conservative groups who saw the law as advancing the “homosexual agenda.” And six years after the law was passed, a survey by the California Safe School Coalition found that 60% of schools were not in compliance with the law.

What Will Happen To The FAIR Education Act?

SB 48 will fare no better. From the comments on websites it is clear that the same arguments heard against AB 537 and Prop 8 will be used here: unwarranted intrusion of parental rights, need to protect our children from an evil lifestyle, liberal democrats need to be voted out of office. These are direct attacks against an existing law. Then there are the many obstacles erected on the path toward implementation. Local school districts determine what is studied and how it is taught. There are 1130 independent school districts in California that each must write their own implementing programs. Programs to implement contentious issues, and SB 48 is one, are commented on by parents in open meetings. There are about six and a half million students and they have parents. The religions will raise their concerns (“homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God”). Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles called SB 48 an attack on parental rights. Thirty-one percent of Californians are Catholic. The extra expense will be used as an obstacle. The California Department of Education found that the state’s financial crisis precludes buying new textbooks for several years.

The issue is not confined to California. Publishers of textbooks try to publish the same textbooks for as many states as possible. They look toward the big states like California for templates. Some states may end up buying textbooks that include California’s new requirements. They’ll weigh in.

We still need to mention the opposition’s favorite obstacle: implementation must be age-appropriate.

What Should We Do?

For each school district, organize a local group that is willing to fight for the implementation of SB 48. How about, for the majority of districts? Organize a database listing resources to help those activists. Make those resources available. If you have any ideas, we would like to know them. SB 48 is that important.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride


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