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Education

Anne Arundel school board approves LGBTQ+ history, county African-American history courses

Anne Arundel County Public Schools will give students the option of taking a course on American LGBTQ+ history, as well as a course on the county’s African-American history, for the first time in the 2023-24 school year.

The school system has a high school level African-American history course, but it isn’t possible to explore the depth and breadth of that subject in one semester, social studies coordinator Eve Case wrote in the proposal for the course focusing on local history. African-American Studies in Anne Arundel will provide a lens for American history that will help reinforce the school system’s mission of providing equitable, diverse and inclusive curricula, she wrote.

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It will focus on the social, political and economic aspects of African-American history, starting in the 17th century, Case wrote in the proposal.

Development of the LGBTQ+ Studies course was initiated by South River High School junior Jaden Farris. Student stakeholders are welcome to propose courses, Case said.

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Farris spoke with the curriculum director and worked with students in Gender and Sexuality Alliance clubs around the county to develop the proposal. The LGBTQ+ Studies course will focus on the “sociopolitical aspects of history as an avenue to apply disciplinary literacy skills,” according to the proposal.

In an interview Thursday, Farris said the course will look at history, queer representation in the media and figures like civil rights activist James Baldwin and computer scientist Alan Turing.

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He will graduate by the time the class is available. Still, Wednesday’s vote brings excitement.

“I’m just happy for all of the queer people who come after me,” Farris said.

Joe Toolan, Annapolis Pride board of directors chair, said it is important for students to feel included in the curriculum. Farris said the school system will be the second in the state to add a LGBTQ+ history class to its offerings, following Montgomery County Public Schools.

Superintendent George Arlotto’s recommendation was to approve both courses.

Seven members were in favor of a motion to adopt that recommendation. District 3 board member Corine Frank, however, voted in opposition. Ahead of the vote, Frank tried to amend the motion so the board could consider and vote on the courses separately, saying she supported one but not the other. That attempt failed. Frank did not specify during the meeting which of the courses she did not support.

Case said next they will assemble committees of teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders to develop the curriculum for the courses. Both will be taught at the high school level, are optional and will last a quarter.

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The committees will look at the scope and sequence of what is taught in the classes, materials of instruction and best practices. Once the curriculum is written, it will be vetted by equity and special education experts. The curriculum will be ready in summer 2023 for the fall semester, Case said.


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