Houston Superintendent Proposes Adding LGBT, Ethnic Studies to History Curriculum

By Stephen Sawchuk — June 21, 2017 1 min read
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Houston Superintendent Richard Carranza said in recent remarks that he would support teaching about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, alongside ethnic-studies courses, in the city’s schools, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Though he does not appear to have put out any specific plan to advance LGBT studies, Carranza’s move came as a notable stake to put down in a city that has recently been roiled by controversy over transgender rights.

Some school districts in the state offer ethnic studies, particularly Mexican-American studies, but the state board of education has resisted the call to create curriculum standards. (There are, though, some signs that it mght be more amenable to ethnic comparative-literature courses.)

Despite the advancement of LGBT rights, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that same-sex marriage is a fundamental Constitutional right, few places save California mandate any curriculum requirements around the teaching of gay history. California, in 2011, became the first state to pass a law requiring districts to address the issue, though it’s not clear whether districts are doing so in any depth.

The Chronicle’s Shelly Webb notes that Carranza’s idea potentially conflicts with the Texas Health Code, which has some fairly unkind things to say about gay people, i.e., “that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.”

She also points out that these issues are sure to cause conflict with state lawmakers, including Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott and other leaders pushing for so-called “bathroom bills” that would require transgender people to use bathrooms matching the sex listed on their birth records.

Houston has swung uneasily back and forth on LGBT issues in recent years. Three-term former Mayor Annise Parker was notable for being one of the first openly gay mayors of a major U.S. city, and for mostly avoiding controversy over her sexual orientation. But the city got a lot of criticism after a city equal rights ordinance with expansive transgender protections was forced to a vote, and failed to pass in part due to anti-transgender fear.

Photo: Richard A. Carranza —Luanne Dietz for Education Week-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.