PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria Public Schools District 150 is moving forward with its initiative to promote inclusivity within its lesson plans.
When students return to class in the fall, they’ll be greeted with a more LGBTQ+ friendly education as the district will infuse LGBTQ+ history into its curriculum.
Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said the plan is part of HB246, which is a 2019 state mandate requiring LGBTQ+ curriculum in grades K-12. She said it’s a plan she’s anxious to see implemented.
“I’m really excited that we were able to identify a curriculum through our community so it’s not going to cost us anything,” Dr. Kherat said. “It was really needed.”
She said the initiative was a collaboration with community members, The Hult Center for Healthy Living, and Central Illinois Friends. She said she believes the process will be enlightening and educate students and teachers alike.
“It’s just really made us a much more inclusive, progressive, open district that’s welcoming to everybody and also, in the end, educate us all,” Dr. Kherat said.
Deric Kimler, CEO of Central Illinois Friends, said there will not be a specific course dedicated to LGBTQ+ history, but rather a resource that teachers can use when applicable.
“This is a resource that educators get to use no matter what class they’re teaching,” Kimler said.
He said the resource that will be used in lesson plans comes from the Legacy Project, a Chicago-based nonprofit. Kimler said it’s important to highlight LGBTQ+ historic figures because it gives the representation to LGBTQ+ youth that’s been lacking in the scholastic setting.
“You are helping children that are having identity crisis get out of their heads and get into the books that you are trying to teach them,” Kimler said. “You’re letting them know ‘it’s okay to be you.”
He said a little nod goes a long way.
“For instances, you’re talking about George Washington Carver today, include that fact that he was a gay man because he was,” Kimler said. “You’re talking about Friedrich Von Steuben today, include the fact that he was an openly gay man. Yes, the father of the U.S. military was an openly gay man.”
Kimler also said incorporating LGBTQ+ history may look different for elementary students and junior high students who are taught history differently.
“It’s simply just providing safe space by providing LGBTQ+ inclusive books and also understanding that some of those kids in your class, some of your friends, may have mommies and mommies and daddies and daddies,” Kimler said.
He also said he understands some parents may be uneasy about the topic and is assuring them the lessons are about history and not sex.
“When we talk about presidents and their first wives, we don’t talk about what they’re doing in bed, we talk about what they provided us and what accolades they had,” Kimler said. “When we’re talking about LGBTQ+ history, we’re simply talking about all the great things that we benefit from today that they gave us, not what they did in bed.”
Kimler said the Legacy Project is a great tool for everyone and anyone can go online and see what’s being taught. He said it’s essential for everyone to have a safe space to learn.