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Monday, 25 May 2020 23:46

Montgomery County, Maryland Takes A Big Step Toward Its LGBTQ Students

montgomery county lgbt studies course

A few years ago, teachers in Maryland were afraid to include LGBTQ references in sex education courses because they could face lawsuits.

But they and high school administrators in Montgomery County have found that a significant number of LGBTQ students feel non-existent and unrepresented in their schools, and this can lead to negative effects, not to mention incidents of hate and bias.

Parents and the Montgomery County Board of Education had to be convinced, but together they found the solution. A course on LGBTQ culture and history will now be taught in the county’s schools!

“A lot of students were really offended and hurt that they didn’t see themselves at all in MCPS [Montgomery County Public Schools], and this was a push from them to see themselves in the curriculum and add LGBTQ inclusivity to different aspects of MCPS,” said Mark Eckstein, chair of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations’ LGBTQ Committee. “And I think the administration came on board after they saw the ill effects of not being represented in the curriculum — how the students felt, you know, less human… and this idea of being affirmed by the Board of Education and Montgomery County Public Schools, I think, goes a long way to decreasing incidents of hate and bias. Because once you learn about these folks and these experiences and the culture, it’s much more difficult to act in ways that are offensive.”

The LGBTQ studies course will be “an interdisciplinary exploration of LGBTQ+ identity, history, and culture.”

A summary of the course reads, “The LGBTQ+ community faces enduring discrimination that has resulted in a rise in hate crimes against them, higher rates of depression, suicide, and addictive drug use. The course aims to bring acceptance, support, and a stronger sense of shared community among our students of all sexual and gender identities.”

The course will begin with a trial in two high schools in the second semester of the 2021 school year, before expanding to eight schools in 2022.

“During initial implementation, we would gather feedback and then come back to you about the success of the pilot to either open it up to all schools or to continue to revise the pilot course,” said Scott Murphy, the director of the secondary curriculum and districtwide programs for Montgomery County Public Schools.

The initiative has been very well received. The Board of Education passed it unanimously, and there was no opposition.

Parents, school authorities, teachers, and the administration of Montgomery County worked together on this project, which is now their pride.

“It’s been a long time coming and I believe it will open a lot of minds,” board member Rebecca Smondrowski said.

School board member Patricia O’Neill also said how proud she was to have contributed to this program:

“I feel like we’ve come so far in having an open conversation and for students to have the right to take this social studies elective in recognition of the times we live in,” she said. “But I don’t want to ever let go of… the civil rights implications for our LGBTQ students.”

LGBTQ students applauded the initiative like board’s student member Nate Tinbite, who tweeted:

“Happy that my colleagues and I voted today to launch the first ever LGBTQ+ Studies pilot course in the nation!

“I am grateful that @MCPS students will soon learn about the diverse and beautiful history that #LGBTQ individuals have been a part of through this new curriculum.”

With no reference to sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBTQ students in Montgomery County, Maryland were not understood. Fortunately, with the help of parents and the Montgomery County Board of Education, school administrations were able to identify the issue and address it.

Montgomery became the first county in the region to teach LGBTQ+ culture and history in their schools.

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