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Conservatives attempt to repeal SB 48 in California

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 9/28/2011, 11:55 p.m.

It makes sense to many people. History is filled with contributions from men and women who weren't heterosexual and who were disabled. It may help young people who are part of the LGBT community and disabled children to know that their communities have contributed greatly to society.

However, SB 48, a law in California that promotes teaching students about LGBT and disabled Americans who have affected society, is under fire from conservatives and so-called family values groups.

The law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and people with disabilities on the list of groups whose "roles and contributions" California public schools have to include in history lessons and teaching materials. State education officials say, however, that the law won't be fully implemented until the 2015-16 school year.

But the fact that the law exists has irked some California residents.

Consisting of various churches, conservative groups and family values coalitions, a movement called "Stop SB 48" launched earlier this year with the desire to repeal the referendum.

According to Stop SB 48's website, "Sacramento politicians have forgotten the true purpose for schools. Our public schools are not institutions for social engineering. Instead, they are academic institutions.

"SB 48 does absolutely nothing to reduce bullying, improve the state of our education system, ensure students graduate or prepare them for global competitiveness. Instead, it diverts precious classroom time and resources away from science, math, reading and writing to promote the political agenda of a few."

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, spoke with the Associated Press and uttered similar sentiments.

"We cannot afford to stay silent or stand on the sidelines," said Dacus in a written statement. "Californians are extremely tolerant, but we draw the line when history is revised to please a special interest group."

Kathy Nelson, a resident of Red Bluff, Calif., wrote a letter to the Tehama County Daily News playing the slippery slope card when it comes to worrying about the law's implementation.

"The problem with SB 48 is it opens up the door for the special interest groups who represent people who want to promote the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and transsexuals," wrote Nelson. "This will be done under the protection of SB48 to the extent no one knows. My understanding, coming out of San Francisco, Sen. Mark Leno, a gay rights activist, is heading a group to write pamphlets promoting gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and transsexuals for their accomplishments."

But California State Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the law, fired back at Nelson in the same paper earlier this week, accusing Nelson of poor reading comprehension skills and calling her letter "ill-informed."

"It is clear that Ms. Nelson did not read the legislation that she so vehemently protests, SB 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act," wrote Leno. "The bill, now signed into law, adds gay as well as disabled Americans to a long list of others, including African, Asian, European, Native and female Americans, who already have their roles and contributions included in our school curriculum. SB 48 ends the historically inaccurate exclusion of these groups from our history books."

"In the many school districts across California currently providing inclusive curriculum, rates of all types of harassment and bullying are significantly decreased," continued Leno. "As we face an ever-growing phenomenon of teen suicide resulting from unbearable physical, emotional and verbal assaults at school, we must act.

"Concerned about student safety, this bill has the full support of the California Council of Churches, an umbrella group of more than a dozen Christian denominations."