New LGBT-specific history lessons planned for L.A. County schools


In the first minutes of 1967, as singers performed “Auld Lang Syne” in the Black Cat bar on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, gay men exchanged New Year’s kisses and embraced.

The raid, beatings and arrests of more than a dozen patrons by plainclothed Los Angeles police officers who had positioned themselves in the crowd that night -- and the subsequent protests outside the bar -- would become monumental in the gay rights movement in Los Angeles, predating the Stonewall riots in New York City by two years.

The Black Cat raid, protests and other events in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history will be included in new lesson plans to be integrated into history curriculum at Los Angeles County high schools in the coming months, according to Project SPIN, a partnership between the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and Los Angeles Unified School District.


In 2011, state legislators passed a controversial first-in-the-nation law requiring California public schools to teach students about the contributions of LGBT Americans in state and U.S. history.

So controversial was the law that some parents across the state quickly pulled their children out of public schools.

School districts have had little help in creating lessons and providing sensitivity training, said Jamie Scot, project manager at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at USC, which has partnered with Project SPIN to create the history curriculum and lesson plans for county schools.

The ONE Archives, one of the world’s largest research libraries on LGBT history, will provide historical artifacts and resources for the curriculum, which its creators hope to debut in L.A. County high schools by early next year, Scot said.

Project SPIN and the ONE Archives hired researchers to develop the curriculum and will be training teachers on how to implement the material into their current lesson plans, Scot said. The curriculum will be focused on modern-day history, from 1940 to the present, she said, and will be for high school students only.

“We don’t want to interrupt what they’re already doing,” Scot said. “We want them to be able to fold it in so it’s seamless, so it’s not like, ‘Today, here’s gay history day.’”


Scot said she hopes the lesson plans will help LGBT students to see that gay people are important and that their history should be reflected in the classroom. For too long, she said, people have mistakenly conflated the history of gay people with sex.

“As it gets normalized and taught and generations go through the system, this becomes almost like permission for kids to take it as something that’s meaningful and take some of the stigma away from it,” she said.

The curriculum will be provided to the schools free of charge, said Sara Train, coordinator of the Project SPIN program. The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has provided the funds to create the curriculum, Train said.

The new curriculum is “truly groundbreaking,” Judy Chiasson, coordinator for human relations, diversity and equity for LAUSD, said in a statement.

“It’s empowering for all students to see themselves, their families and their community reflected in the curriculum,” Chiasson said.


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