LGBTQ Education

Rachel Park and Ankita Acharya

LGBTQ education at Cupertino High School is mainly carried out in US history classes during students’ junior year. 

Kimberlee Morgan, a U.S. History and AP US Government teacher explained that “as far as the curriculum, there are standards that require inclusion of an LGBTQ history within U.S. history. That’s really where it falls mostly in the Social Studies Department.”

LGBTQ education has been happening outside of the US history department as well. 

“I’m familiar with the fact that our science department has a unit that covers gender and identity issues in the biology class. I’m mostly familiar with the English department’s incorporation of Aristotle and Dante in our freshmen literature classes.” says freshman literature teacher Jenna Ray. (Aristotle and Dante by Benjamin Sáenz is about a teenager, Aristotle, befriending Dante, who is questioning his sexuality.)

However, Ray also says that “for any given topic there’s not enough time to go in as much depth as [I] would like to. I like that we have tried to build more time to have discussions around LGBT issues. But obviously, we can always use more. Then the challenge becomes balancing: if we had more curriculum in one area, then we would have to cut curriculum somewhere else. So it’s a struggle.”

Even for the US History classes in which LGBTQ education is mandatory, Morgan believes that there is not enough time. 

Said Morgan, “There is never enough time in class to cover any information, especially in remote learning. US history at the high school level is a survey class. You’re getting snippets of information. Still, teachers are very conscious of connecting students to relevant information.”

Both teachers mentioned how the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club at school is a great resource for students.

Ray, the advisor for the GSA club, adds on: “The GSA club does a lot of informational events. Periodically, they’ll put on a Q&A panel in which people who identify as different sexual orientations or gender identities answer questions that people have.”

To improve our current LGBTQ education at our school, Morgan states that “the biggest thing is continuing the teacher’s own understanding and education of the history and movements that have happened and are happening.” 

Said Morgan, “we as teachers can continue to work on improving our own content knowledge. One of the ways that we are doing that is through Ms. Kelly Roush, our social studies curriculum lead. She is tasked with bringing in speakers for professional learning for teachers. We use that dedicated time to be able to add to our own content knowledge and take that back to our students.”

Ray explained how the staff has been improving their own education as well and becoming more conscious. “I’ve really appreciated that staff members have been open to learning about what types of language to use and ways that they can improve their own teaching of different topics, by considering where their own personal biases are. So that’s good, but always something that we can improve.”

For students to have open conversations and feel comfortable, Ray said “anytime you have a challenging conversation, it’s always good to have norms that the whole group agrees with to draw boundaries. Along with that, education will help a lot. There’s a lot of instances where people will say or do something, not realizing that what they’re saying is harmful. Informing people is going to be one of the best things we can do to help.”

Regarding the same topic, Morgan stated that helping students have tools to foster conversation and understanding is important. 

Said Morgan, “I don’t think it’s just unique to topics on LGBTQ. At least my observations, a lot of times joking around comes from a place of being uncomfortable or unknowledgeable. People put up a defense with a joke, so they don’t have to really reflect or think. This is where I wish we could be in person. In class, you could have facilitators that are more educated to pose questions, keeping the conversation going. The conversation is what fosters understanding. If someone doesn’t know anything, having prompts or questions is a first step in learning more about any topic.”

Teachers overall have a positive view on the current LGBTQ education at Cupertino High School and are positive about its outlook. “I’m happy that we are trying to include more diverse voices overall, across the curriculum.” says Ray.