About the FAIR Education Act
The FAIR Education Act*, SB 48 (Leno), was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on January 1, 2012. It amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum.
*When the FAIR Education Act was passed in 2011 it added LGBT people and people with disabilities to the list of groups that must be represented in history and social science texts. We recognize and value the importance of disability history but, unfortunately, do not have the content familiarity to provide educational resources that would adequately represent their communities. So, we will leave that education to organizations better equipped to provide those resources.
California Education Code Social Content
The California Education Code has been updated over time to ensure that the contributions of members of underrepresented racial, ethnic and cultural groups to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States are included in history and social studies lessons. To this end, California Education Code’s Social Content statute requires that instructional materials:
- Portray accurately and equitably the cultural and racial diversity of American society
- Demonstrate the contribution of minority groups and males and females to the development of California and the U.S.
- Emphasize people in varied, positive, and contributing roles in order to influence students’ school experiences constructively
- Not contain inappropriate references to commercial brand names, products, and corporate or company logos
FAIR Education Act FAQs
§ 51204.5. Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.
§ 51500. A teacher shall not give instruction and a school district shall not sponsor any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.
§ 51501. The state board and any governing board shall not adopt any textbooks or other instructional materials for use in the public schools that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.
§ 60040. When adopting instructional materials for use in the schools, governing boards shall include only instructional materials which, in their determination, accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society, including: (a) The contributions of both men and women in all types of roles, including professional, vocational, and executive roles.
(b) The role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups to the total development of California and the United States.
(c) The role and contributions of the entrepreneur and labor in the total development of California and the United States.
§ 60044. A governing board shall not adopt any instructional materials for use in the schools that, in its determination, contain: (a) Any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, occupation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.
(b) Any sectarian or denominational doctrine or propaganda contrary to law.
When students learn about the Holocaust and how the Nazis killed millions of Jews, they might also learn that Hitler targeted and killed people simply because they were gay or lesbian, or Romani, or had disabilities, or because of their beliefs, such as being a Communist or a Jehovah’s Witness.
Students could learn about the public debate that led to the 1993 passage of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, where people were not allowed to serve in the U.S. military if they were openly gay or lesbian. Then they would also learn about the repeal of this policy in 2011.
Students currently learn about César Chávez and the farm worker’s rights movement, Susan B. Anthony and how women won the right to vote, and Martin Luther King Jr. who worked for and died for civil rights. Now they could also learn about Harvey Milk and how he worked to advance gay rights, and that he was also assassinated.
Social science education researchers have deemed a transformational approach the best practice for integrating diversity into frameworks and curricula. Such an approach expands students’ abilities to understand gender and sexuality as changing historical categories and as lenses for historical and contemporary analysis. It also reflects accurately the ways that professional historians have come to understand historical LGBT roles and contributions.This report was produced by the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History (CLGBTH), an affiliated society of the American Historical Association, in partnership with Our Family Coalition, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and an anonymous donor.
For more information:
- California Department of Education’s Frequently Asked Questions page for SB 48, The FAIR Education Act
- “California’s new public school history standards reflect state’s diversity,” Stephen Magagnini, July 29, 2016, Sacramento Bee
- Timeline providing a thumbnail history and process of the FAIR Education Act legislation and its implementation