Contrary to a misconception that the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful) Education Act is about sex education, the law signed into the books in 2011 mandates that information about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities and people with disabilities be included in social studies and history lessons. In the years since implementation, the Santa Barbara school district has held four workshops — dubbed “professional learning opportunities” — for teachers about a multitude of education topics, including “cultural proficiency,” which seeks to ensure that race, language, sexual orientation, or disabilities do not sway academic grading or perception. In a presentation to the school board Tuesday night, Pacific Pride Foundation Executive Director David Selberg called on the district to do more in the hope that informed students would lead to less bullying and an increase in safety.
The district partnered with UCSB professor Jeffrey Stewart for these trainings, Assistant Superintendent Ben Drati told boardmembers. But just seven teachers attended the most recent workshop. It was held in the middle of summer, and teachers were paid only $115 for a full day, which Selberg suggested contributed to the low turnout. To address this problem, he requested that “strong” principals lead other principals to ensure the curriculum pervades schools and that funding — the new state model gives more freedom to districts — be allocated for it.
According to survey results presented by Pacific Pride’s LGBT program coordinator Tyler Renner, 69 percent of students indicated they knew someone who openly identified as LGBT. Fifty percent of students reported they had never (or just once) discussed LGBT topics. And 60 percent said they “didn’t know” if they had access to LGBT materials in the library or access to computers to get information about such topics.
Jacob Lesner-Buxton, community organizer at the Independent Living Resource Center, also spoke and explained that when he was a kid, he never learned about histories of people with disabilities. Following the presentations, boardmembers iterated that the district needs to make sure more teachers attend the seminars. “We’re changing the culture of our school broadly,” said Boardmember Monique Limón, pointing to the time when history lessons didn’t include women, African Americans, or Latinos.