‘Long time coming’: Montgomery Co. School Board approves LGBT studies course

Starting next spring, some high school students in Montgomery County, Maryland, will be able to sign up for a new LGBTQ studies course, after the Board of Education Tuesday unanimously approved the creation of the new course.

Montgomery County’s LGBTQ studies course is believed to be the first in the region — and one of the first in the nation to offer a course on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history and culture.

The new pilot course will initially be offered at two high schools in the second semester of the 2021 school year, according to Scott Murphy, the director of secondary curriculum and districtwide programs for Montgomery County Public Schools.

The course offering is expected to be expanded to eight more schools the following school year.

The curriculum for the semester-long “LGBTQ+ studies,” will explore LGBTQ identity, history and culture. The social studies elective will be open to juniors and seniors who have taken American history.

Murphy told school board members there has been “strong interest” in the course from teachers and students, who have already started working on developing the curriculum.

“During initial implementation, we would gather feedback and then come back to you about the success of the pilot to either open it up to all schools or to continue to revise the pilot course,” Murphy said.

The move to offer the course was strongly praised by school board members during the meeting Tuesday.

“It’s been a long time coming and I believe it will open a lot of minds,” board member Rebecca Smondrowski said.

Nate Tinbite, the board’s student member, said the addition of the course is “much-needed in our district,” and said he believed it to be one of the first schools in the nation to offer it.

School board member Patricia O’Neill said she’s proud of the community and its commitment to equality, noting that years ago any references to homosexuality in sex-ed courses, for example, were controversial and even drew lawsuits.

“I feel like we’ve come so far in having an open conversation and for students to have the right to take this social studies elective in recognition of the times we live in,” O’Neill said. “But I don’t want to ever let go of … the civil rights implications for our LGBTQ students.”

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