Culver City High to offer LGBTQ+ course – San Bernardino Sun

Graham Lockett did not come out as gay until he was 22, a full decade after first realizing his sexuality.

Now 34 and a science teacher at Culver City High School, Lockett is involved in an effort to bring a course about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning community to his high school campus this fall.

It’s believed that Culver City will be among the first – if not the first – traditional public high schools in Southern California to offer a course devoted exclusively to teaching about the culture, history and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.

Advocates say an inclusive curriculum in schools is important to foster empathy and to combat harassment of LGBTQ+ students.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s most recent national school climate survey, conducted in 2019, found that nationally, 59.1% of LGBTQ students did not feel safe on campus because of their sexual orientation nor did 42.5% of students because of their gender expression. More than half of LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed, at least one in five were physically harassed and 9% to 11% were physically assaulted based on their gender, gender expression or sexual orientation.

As a result, these students were nearly three times as likely to miss school and suffered higher rates of depression.

Growing up in a conservative part of Orange County, Lockett said he would have benefited as a student from a course like the one planned at Culver City High School. What sets queer students apart from other marginalized students, he said, is that they often feel alone even within their own families because, in most cases, their parents are heterosexual.

“Having courses like this being offered helps provide that visibility that queer students (are searching for),” Lockett said, adding that because discussions would take place within a class setting, the teacher could provide context to students’ questions.

Sophia and Julia Taravella are hoping to enroll in the course. The sisters are being raised by two gay fathers and have grown up around members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Sophia, 16, who in the fall will be a junior at Culver City High and who identifies as straight, said she’s interested in learning the history of the LGBTQ+ community, including the struggles that were fought and the path toward societal acceptance.

The course, she said, would be beneficial “to someone like me who’s not a part of the community, since a lot of people around me are. I want to see what it took to get to where we are today.”

Added her sister, Julia, a 15-year-old who will be a sophomore this fall: “It’s always good to learn about new topics and understand what they are.”

The semester-long course will be taught at the high school by a professor from West Los Angeles College. Students who complete the elective course, which will be held after school, will receive college credits.

In addition to going over what the letters “LGBTQ” stand for, Lockett said the course will discuss the difference between gender and sexual identity, delve into the history of queer people worldwide, and touch on more recent pop culture and history, including the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City that led to the global gay rights movement.

Lockett admits a lot of the information won’t be new to queer-identifying students, but part of the goal is to have other students take the course to better understand the challenges and issues their LGBTQ+ peers face.

“For these queer students to feel campus is safe, they have to have genuinely supportive allies alongside them,” he said.

School and district administrators have been supportive of the course, according to Lockett. The school first offered the course last semester, but it was canceled due to low enrollment, which Lockett attributed to a lack of promotion and the fact that it was online. He’s been working on outreach, and the school is preparing to offer it in person this fall.

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