Social Studies

social studies
social studies jersey city
dos santos soc studies
Melissa Dos Santos John Emolo
Supervisor Social Studies (K-12) Supervisor Social Studies (K-12)

The Social Studies program is an inquiry-based curriculum that emphasizes historical thinking skills and analysis. Through the inquiry framework, students engage with primary and secondary sources to understand history from multiple perspectives.  The goal of the social studies department is to prepare students to be responsible and productive citizens in a democratic society and a globally interdependent world. Our purpose is to ensure all students will be successful through the implementation of a standards-based curriculum  that foster students' 21st century and interpersonal skills and focuses on diversity, cultural awareness, problem solving and collaboration.  Students will acquire necessary knowledge, skills, and aptitudes as they become lifelong learners and valuable contributors to the workforce.  To achieve our school and department mission of educating, equipping, and empowering all students, we will promote active involvement among school, family, and community. 


Curriculum Overviewlogo


K-5 Social Studies

  • K, 1, 2

Students will be able to gain a deeper understanding about their communities by learning

about who lives and works in their communities. 

  • Grade 3

Students will engage in the fundamental concepts of geography and the essential concepts of local and global economy.

  • Grade 4

Through the lenses of New Jersey history, students will engage with the fundamental concepts about government, citizenship, geography, economics, and history. 

  • Grade 5

Students will learn about the many struggles the Colonists had to overcome in the formation of a new country, the United States. 


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K-5 Curriculum Documentation 
JCPS Kindergarten Social Studies JCPS grade 1 Social Studies grade 2 social studies
Kindergarten Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
Grade 1 Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
Grade 2 Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
JCPS Grade 3 Social Studies JCPS Grade 4 Social Studies JCPS Grade 5 Social Studies
Grade 3 Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
Grade 4 Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
Grade 5 Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
6-8 Curriculum Documentation 
grade 6 curriculum documentation grade 7 curriculum documentation grade 8 curriculum documentation
Grade 6 Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
Grade 7 Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
Grade 8 Social Studies
Curriculum Documentation
High School  Curriculum Documentation 
Grades 9-12 social studies Grades 9-12 social studies Grades 9-12 social studies
United States History I JCPS United States History II JCPS World Cultures
African American Studies Curriculum Philosophy Curriculum  
African American Studies Curriculum  Philosophy Curriculum  





Grades 6-8 -The Middle School Social Studies curriculum engages students in historical inquiry through global and United States history.         


  • Grade 6

Global Civilizations I-Students will investigate the prehistoric world and underlying role technological advancements, 

geography, and natural resources played on helping prehistoric people establish organized, cooperativ


  • Grade 7

Global Civilizations II-Students will engage in the study of classical civilizations and how they transformed into empires by centralizing government, new technologies, exchange of ideas and how beliefs systems affected culture. 

  • Grade 8

Early US History-(1491-Jackson Presidency)-As students examine our nation’s roots, 

they will learn about the democratic traditions, philosophical ideas, people, and institutions that continue to 

leave a legacy on American society, politics, and economy today.

Jersey City Public Schools

Mr. Franklin Walker, Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Norma Fernandez, Deputy Superintendent of Schools 

Ms. Ellen M. Ruane, Assistant Superintendent of Schools

Curriculum and Instruction Department


Jersey City Public Schools LGBTQ Curriculum Alignment Committee

Committee Members:

Melissa dos Santos, Social Studies Supervisor

Elizabeth Iannitelli, Social Studies Supervisor

Melissa Mott, We Are History

Scott Hirschfeld, We Are History

Christina Sivo, Social Studies Teacher at McNair Academic High School

Adrian Nocum, Social Studies Teacher at Innovation High School

Thelma Robinson, Social Studies Teacher at Lincoln High School


Curriculum Mandates


 Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

  1. A board of education shall include instruction on the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, in an appropriate place in the curriculum of middle school and high school students as part of the district’s implementation of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Social Studies.
  1. When adopting instructional materials for use in the schools of the district, a board of education shall only adopt instructional materials which, in its determination, accurately portray the cultural and economic diversity of society including the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Over the past several weeks, New Jersey has begun implementing a long overdue and much needed piece of the curriculum that requires school districts to include LGBTQ history in its curriculum. 




            map         breakdown



NCSS Position Statement on LGBTQ History


The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) recommends an actionable response:

  • What is my role, as an individual, in advancing the social studies towards a more complete, contextualized – and thereby more accurate and empowering – curriculum?
  • How can we, as caretakers of the social studies, create a sustainable model for a more complete, contextualizedand thereby more accurate and empowering – curriculum?

Contextualizing LGBT+ history within the story of America through an inquiry-based, non-judgmental critical analysis of primary sources is a reflection of what unifies caretakers of the social studies, irrespective of their political affiliations or ideologies.


The Experiences of LGBTQ Youth in Schools



Surveys of LGBTQ youth reveal that:

  • Only 26% feel safe in their school classrooms; 5% say teachers and school staff are supportive
  • 95% regularly hear homophobic remarks
  • 87% experience harassment or assault
  • Only 11% of youth of color believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively
  • 50% of transgender youth say they can never use school restrooms that align with their identity
  • 55% do not report incidents; 60% of those who report say staff did nothing or told them to ignore it

As a result:

  • More than 70% of LGBTQ youth report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • LGBTQ students are more likely to miss school and consider dropping out, have lower grade point averages, and experience higher levels of depression
  • 39% seriously consider attempting suicide (and over 50% of transgender and non-binary youth)

“I haven’t really had teachers mention LGBT issues at all. Nobody likes to mention it. And any time someone brings up the issue, it’s just skimmed over.” Logan J., 18-year-old pansexual non-binary student


The Experiences of LGBTQ Youth in Schools


Only 20% of LGBTQ students reported being taught positive representations about LGBTQ people, history, or events in their schools. In these schools, LGBTQ students:


  • Were less likely to hear homophobic remarks (43% vs. 65%)


  • Were less likely to hear negative remarks about transgender people (30% vs. 46%)


  • Were less likely to feel unsafe due to sexual orientation (41.8% vs. 63.3%) and gender expression (35% vs. 47%)


  • Experienced lower levels of victimization related to their sexual orientation and gender expression


  • Were less likely to miss school in the past month because they felt unsafe (24% vs. 38%)
  • Performed better academically (3.3 vs. 3.2 GPAs) and were more likely to plan on pursuing college


  • Were more likely to report that classmates were somewhat or very accepting of LGBTQ people (68% vs. 36%)


  • Felt greater belonging to their school community
“We read Will Grayson, Will Grayson last year, and a lot of the male students didn’t want to read it because it had two students that are gay, and the school let them opt out and read a different book. We don’t do that for other things.”  Amy L., teacher

High School Curriculum: Focus on History


history 1 history 2 history 3 history 4



Middle School Curriculum: Focus on Climate

Teacher Professional Development September 9, 2020


  • “[It is important] to include all. This isn't a suggestion but a must.”
  • “Everyone's history must be included to complete the picture of the US.”
  • “This was the first time in my experience that this issue was addressed in an educational professional development context.”
  • “Why didn’t we have this many years ago?”
  • “I hope the district can arrange more PD's on LGBTQ rights and gender studies overall.”



Lesson One: An Introduction to LGBTQ Studies


Deep Dive into Building Empathy:


Essential Questions:

  • Why is LGBTQ history important to teach?
  • How have LGBTQ people been erased throughout history?
  • What are the consequences of invisibility in the curriculum?
  • Where are the contributions of LGBTQ people visible, and how?



See “Why should we teach about LGBTQ people and history?” on the following page. 


Salient Themes/Takeaways:

  • Historical Invisibility
  • Intersectionality
  • Mirrors and windows
  • LGBTQ contributions
  • Safety and inclusion


Relevant Documents/Lessons:


Why should we teach about LGBTQ people and history?


LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) history is neither a modern nor a Western phenomenon. There are examples of LGBTQ history in 13th-century Persian poetry, in court decisions on gender identity in Colonial New England, as active gay culture among cowboys during Western Expansion, and in the aspirations of Germany’s first organization for homosexuals – the Scientific Humanitarian Committee – in the decades before World War II. Although the modern LGBTQ rights movement began in earnest in the 1960s, LGBTQ people have always existed and therefore queer history exists in many histories, spheres, and social movements. 


These histories, of course, have remained virtually invisible in school curricula even until today. Historically, the dominant classes in our society – men, white people, Christians, heterosexuals, able-bodied people – have embodied their values and viewpoints in school curricula and presented them as universal truths. Curricular censorship, therefore, represents broader societal struggles over cultural politics, including race, class, sexuality, and gender. The result has been the omission of the perspectives and stories of large swaths of humanity from the lessons we teach our students.


In recent decades, social justice movements have achieved greater inclusion of multicultural and anti-bias themes in school curricula, including positive representations of LGBTQ people and history. California passed the FAIR Education Act in 2011, becoming the first state to mandate that the contributions of the LGBTQ communities (and people with disabilities) be represented in the curriculum. New Jersey passed a similar law in 2019 and three other states have followed suit as of this writing – Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon. (Conversely, an equal number of states have “Don’t Say Gay” laws that expressly forbid teachers from discussing LGBTQ people or topics in a positive light.)


So what difference will it make if LGBTQ history, and other marginalized histories, are woven into the curriculum and given proportional weight in textbooks and literature classes?


The poet and feminist, Adrienne Rich, wrote: “When someone with the authority of a teacher…describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.” Marginalized groups have long understood the pain of invisibility, the denial of pride and affirmation that comes from seeing one’s heritage reflected in history and culture. Majority communities suffer, too, from biased and incomplete histories that fail to portray an accurate picture of the world’s diversity, and that can give rise to stereotypical thinking and bigotry. Such realities have led author and social justice educator, Warren Blumenfeld, to assert, “I consider the half-truths, misinformation, deletions, omissions, distortions, and the overall censorship of LGBT history, literature, and culture in the schools as a form of violence.”


According to GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey, only 19.8% of LGBTQ students were taught positive representations about LGBTQ people, history, or events in their schools. Compared to students in schools without an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, these students were significantly less likely to hear homophobic remarks and negative comments about transgender people or gender expression. They were less likely to be victimized because of their sexual orientation and gender expression, and therefore less likely to feel unsafe or miss school. These students were more likely to perform better academically, report that their peers were accepting of LGBTQ people, and feel a greater sense of belonging to their school community. LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, the data shows, is not just more academically honest, but also improves school climate and serves as a life-saving safety intervention for many LGBTQ students.


In this age of critically important social movements – such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and immigrant rights efforts – examining LGBTQ history also serves as one vehicle for unpacking intersectionality or understanding how the many aspects of a person’s social and political identities might combine to create unique ways that individuals experience discrimination and privilege. Because LGBTQ people are also Black and female and Muslim and differently abled, when we study queer history, we aren’t studying a detached demographic unit, but a disparate array of people and histories linked through their experiences of marginalization but unbound by any singular cultural lineage.


Why Study LGBTQ History?


Did you know…

  • We’wha (WAY-wah) – a Zuni artist and cultural ambassador – embarked on a mission to Washington, D.C. in 1886 to educate Americans about Native traditions? An lhamana (a Zuni term for someone who takes on male and female social roles), We’wha was admired by her community and U.S. leaders alike.

  • Eleanor Roosevelt, the human rights champion and longest-serving First Lady of the U.S., had a long-term relationship with reporter Lorena Hickock? Following Eleanor’s death, a series of letters were uncovered, in which she expressed sentiments to Lorena such as, “I ache to hold you close.”
  • In 1966, the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in San Francisco helped to launch transgender activism? In response to police harassment and an attempt to arrest one of their own, a group of “screaming queens” threw a cup of hot coffee in an officer’s face and ignited one of the earliest LGBTQ uprisings.
  • Bayard Rustin – a top advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington – was attacked by Congress and forced out of the civil rights movement for being gay? 

In 2019, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize marriage for same-sex couples, joining about 30 other nations since 2001? However, more than 70 countries criminalize same-sex relationships.


If you were unaware of these people and moments in LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) history and current events, you are not alone. Until recently, LGBTQ people and history were nearly invisible in the school curriculum and in popular media. In 2011 California passed the FAIR Education Act, the first-ever law requiring that LGBTQ topics be included in history class. Upon signing the law, Governor Jerry Brown said, “History should be honest. This bill…ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books.” New Jersey became the second state to pass such a law in 2019, and several other states have followed suit.


  • Did you know about any of the above LGBTQ people or moments? If so, which ones and from what sources?
  • What else do you know or do you want to know about LGBTQ history?


Why is it important to learn about diverse histories? 


For centuries, history has been told through the values and perspectives of the dominant classes in our society, such as white, male, straight, and able-bodied people. Those who have been left out have suffered the pain of invisibility. They have been denied the sense of pride and belonging people feel in seeing themselves reflected in books, film, art, and other accounts of history; and they have been subjected to prejudice arising from the fear and ignorance that comes when history is biased or one-sided. Majority groups have suffered, too, from an incomplete understanding of the diversity that makes up our world.


  • Have you ever felt left out of the curriculum or the history your community teaches? If so, how?
  • Have you ever felt that there are gaps in your understanding of different types of people and their histories? Explain.

How can teaching about LGBTQ history make schools safer? 


Every few years, an organization called GLSEN surveys LGBTQ students across the U.S. about their experiences in middle and high school. The 2017 National School Climate Survey reported that only about 20% of LGBTQ students were taught positive representations about LGBTQ people, history, or events at school. Compared to students in schools that did not have an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, these students were less likely to hear anti-LGBTQ names or remarks from their peers and less likely to be victimized because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. As a result, they felt safer at their schools, missed school less often, and even got better grades. These students reported that their classmates were more accepting of LGBTQ people and that they felt a greater belonging to their school community. The GLSEN study demonstrates the benefits of an inclusive curriculum.


  • How does the whole community – not just LGBTQ students – benefit from an inclusive curriculum? 
  • Are you surprised that 80% of the students reported no positive LGBTQ representations at their schools? Why do you think LGBTQ history remains invisible in so many schools? 


How is history both a mirror and a window?


The educator and author, Emily Style, has observed that the school curriculum should be both a mirror that reflects our individual experiences and a window that allows us to see beyond ourselves and better understand the experiences of others. LGBTQ history allows us to see a people that have been made invisible for far too long, and provides us with a more honest and accurate picture of the world we live in. The LGBTQ history organization, Quist, ran a campaign called #QuistoryMatters. Students wrote in with their reasons why it’s important to preserve, teach, and learn “quistory” (queer history). Below are some of their responses.

  • Which reason from this list is most meaningful to you? Why?
  • Why else do you think it’s important to learn about LGBTQ history?


  • Because I had a…friend who was convinced that lesbians didn’t exist until the 60s. 
  • Because it’s alienating, when an individual understands themselves but the society in which they live does not understand them.
  • Because I was the first queer woman I knew & had no context for my feelings.
  • Because it illuminates the full range of human experience.
  • Because queer POC [people of color] kids should be taught that queer excellence has never and will never be limited to white people.
  • Because I had never heard of the Stonewall Riots before I got to college.
  • Because history must include the whole story.
  • Because no one should be told that they don’t have a history.
  • Because it really helps to know that behind me is an incredibly strong and proud history of trans people, and if they can do it, so can I.
  • Because LGBT history shows us the distances we have traveled and how far we have left to go.
  • Because it’ll bring humanity one step closer to total equality.
  • Becasue all our stories matter.

Emily Style, “Curriculum As Window and Mirror,” The National Seed Project,

Sarah Prager, “22 Reasons Queer History Is Important,” Advocate, October 22, 2014,


Why Study LGBTQ History?
Lesson 2: LGBTQ Identity
Deep Dive into Building Empathy:
Essential Questions:
What does LGBTQ mean? What identities does it represent?
Why is it important to understand the distinctions and affirm all LGBTQ identities?
Why might people feel unsafe to express all their identities?
What is the difference between gender and sexuality?
What is  intersectionality and how does it relate to the experiences of LGBTQ people?
See “Understanding Sexual and Gender Identities” on the following page. 
 Salient Themes/Takeaways:
Historical Invisibility
Identity development
Safety and inclusion
Relevant Documents/Lessons:
I am Who I Am (lesson plan)
Glossaries of LGBTQ Terminology:

Understanding Sexual and Gender Identities


The range of terms used today to describe sexual and gender identities can seem confusing and overwhelming. For generations, homosexuality – coined in 1868 by German writer and human rights campaigner, Karl-Maria Kertbeny – was the entrenched term used by mainstream society to describe same-sex behavior. Stirred by the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, activists began to publicly demand language that was more affirming and accurate. From the 1960s to the 1980s, gay, lesbian, and bisexual gradually came into common usage, and in the 1990s transgender was adjoined to both differentiate gender identity from sexual orientation and demonstrate how all of these identity groups seek shared freedom from persecution rooted in society’s gender-based norms. At around the same time, the once derogatory queer was reclaimed as a self-affirming umbrella term and to disarm those who would wield it as a weapon. Since the early 2000s, a host of other symbols have been added to LGBTQ to incorporate the ever-evolving identities that comprise these communities.

gender equity


Though some may feel that this “alphabet soup” overcomplicates things or pushes the limits of political correctness, it is important for members of the dominant groups in society to acknowledge that it is a response to centuries of sexual and gender repression, and to take responsibility for learning about and opening new avenues for dialogue about identity. This doesn’t require becoming an expert in queer studies, but it does involve positive intention, active listening, and a willingness seek new knowledge. Working toward integrating some of the following broad principles is a good start:


  • Sexual Orientation vs. Gender Identity: Understand the difference between sexual orientation (who one is attracted to emotionally, romantically, or sexually) and gender identity (one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither). Be aware of which identity categories align with each.


  • Beyond the Binary: Avoid binary classifications, such as “man or woman” and “gay or straight.” Adopt a spectrum approach that acknowledges that many people exist along a continuum and not on one end or the other.


  • Pronoun Use: Use correct pronouns when referring to others. If you’re not sure, ask respectfully or use gender neutral pronouns, such as adopting the plural form (e.g., “I have a new roommate. They are moving in soon.”)


  • The New Normal: Avoid defining identities using “non- “ or as something other than “normal” or “regular” (e.g., “transgender and regular people”). Likewise, avoid terms that position identity as a pathology or condition (e.g., “homosexual,” “lesbianism,” “transgendered”) or that objectify them (e.g., “the gays” vs. “gay people”).


  • Diverse Families: Recognize that identity affects families, for example some children of LGBTQ people identify as queer due to their unique experiences. However, avoid attaching an identity to a relationship or family (e.g., use “marriage of same-sex couples,” not “gay marriage”).


  • When you Assume…: Be conscious about the natural tendency to make assumptions regarding people’s gender, sexuality, and relationship status. Listen carefully for what others may reveal about their identities, question them respectfully when appropriate, and engage in investigation on your own to better understand who they are.


Many educators may wonder how all of this relates to their role, especially teachers of young children, who many feel should be shielded from the politics of sexuality and gender. Children’s awareness of their own identities develops early, though, as does their cognizance about how others perceive and react to them. According to the American Psychological Association, “the core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence.” Similarly, interviews with transgender people reveal that “as early as age 3 to 5, there’s this feeling that the individual is part of another gender group…They have self-knowledge…that they’re trying to communicate.” In other words, most LGBTQ teens and adults knew they were “different” by the early years of elementary school. By middle school, young people are beginning to form identities around these differences and often concurrently dealing with anti-LGBTQ attitudes and behavior. Schools have an important role to play in providing the information and support that encourages healthy social and emotional development for all students, and in mitigating the safety and mental health repercussions that come from denying or suppressing one’s identity and defending it from attacks by others.


The benefits of affirming and educating about LGBTQ identities are many, both for queer students themselves and the larger school community. Language is power; what we don’t have a name for doesn’t exist. Allowing LGBTQ people to name themselves – and then valuing those names – makes invisible lives visible and fosters new ways of thinking about human beings and identity. Moving beyond traditional, binary ways of sorting the world is more precise, inclusive, and empowering. These new categories can act as tools that facilitate dialogue and understanding, and decrease unconscious bias and systemic prejudice. They can allow LGBTQ people to interact with the world on their own terms, as equals, and all students to reap the rewards of less narrow-minded and more affirming environments.


Because LGBTQ people encompass many identities beyond their sexual orientations and gender identities, educating about LGBTQ issues can also be part of an intersectional approach. Kimberlé Crenshaw, the lawyer and civil rights activist who coined the term intersectionality in 1989, observed how various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. “It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there,” she explains. “Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.” Focusing on multiple axes of identity in queer studies, for example, can shed light on how racism informs the experience of a Black lesbian or anti-immigrant bias affects a transgender member of the Latinx community. Such a lens centers those who have been at the margins and addresses the consequences of bias on multiple fronts. In her famous essay, “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions,” writer and activist Audre Lorde explains how attacks against Black people is an LGBTQ issue because thousands of Black people are part of the LGBTQ community, and attacks against LGBTQ people is a Black issue because thousands of LGBTQ are Black. “I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me,” asserts Lorde. “And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.”

Page 1 image source: Geneseo, The State University of New York, " Understanding Gender Identity and Gender Expression,"


American Psychological Association, “Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality,” 2008,
 Ed Yong, “Young Trans Children Know Who They Are,” The Atlantic, January 15, 2019,
Audre Lorde, “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions.” Homophobia and Education, 1983. New York: Council on Interracial Books for Children.


LGBTQIA... What Does it All Mean?


Did you know that in 1951, “gay” appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary for the first time as a term to describe people in same-sex relationships? It was probably used “underground” for decades before. During that time, “homosexual” was the word most often used in mainstream society, but many LGBTQ people (as we call them today) rejected this term because it sounded like a medical condition. During the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, more and more people began using gay. Soon women felt that gay was mostly being used to refer to men, so they adopted lesbian; and those whose attraction was not limited to either women or men felt that bisexual was the best fit. As the movement for equality grew, other groups claimed their right to be named. Transgender people, who were often on the front lines of battles against gender discrimination, pushed for a ‘T’ to be added to ‘LGB.’ In the 1990s, queer – once used as a slur – was reclaimed as an umbrella term under which many diverse people could unite. Since that time, many other symbols have been affixed to LGBTQ. One college in New York says that it supports students who are LGBTQIAGNC.

  • What terms under the banner “LGBTQ” are new to you? How can you find out more about them?
  • What other terms have been used to refer to LGBTQ people historically? How do these changes mirror the way language has developed for other groups, such as Black and Native American people?

The Freedom to Name Ourselves


Some feel that naming all of these wide-ranging identities is inclusive, while others think it goes overboard. Whatever your opinion, it is important to recognize that the desire to be named is a reaction to centuries of being silenced. Talking about our identities is a kind of freedom, even when the process is messy. 


Perhaps you’re already on the journey to understanding your own and other people’s diverse sexual and gender identities. Perhaps you haven’t given it much thought. The graphic pictured here, from Trans Student Educational Resources, helps to break things down. Gender identity refers to our innermost sense of ourselves as female, male, a mix of both, or neither. Gender expression is about how we communicate our gender outwardly to others. Sexual orientation is the term used to describe who we’re attracted to physically or emotionally. Each of these categories represents a spectrum of identities rather than just a couple of fixed (binary) choices – identity is more complex than just male or female, gay or straight. While our sexual and gender identities are distinct, they are also connected because of the history of discrimination and the ways in which society has attempted to enforce norms around who we love and how we express ourselves.



  • What different sexual and gender identities are you aware of among your peers or in your community? What questions do you have about these identities? 
  • Do you think people are accepting of different identities in your community? Explain.

At the Crossroads of Identity

 Trans Student Educational Resources, “The Gender Unicorn,”


In addition to their sexual and gender identities, LGBTQ people obviously possess many other identities, including race, religion, nationality, and physical and mental ability, just to name a few. Because our personal identities have lots of layers, so does the way we experience bias and prejudice. A Latino gay male, for example, may experience racism, xenophobia, and homophobia in interconnected ways that are different from how a white gay male might experience homophobia. He might be treated differently by a police officer at a protest, for instance, or by a store manager when applying for an after-school job. The idea that different forms of inequality can converge like cars at a crossing is called intersectionality


The activist, Audre Lorde, who was Black, lesbian, and part of an interracial couple, wrote: “I usually find myself part of some group in which the majority defines me as deviant, difficult, inferior or just plain ‘wrong’… I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group.” It’s important for us all to consider how people can be targeted by prejudice on multiple fronts and how we can challenge these injustices when they occur.

  • What examples of intersectionality have you thought about or observed in your own community?
  • When you think about your own multiple identities, are there ways in which you have privilege or power that you can use to challenge bias in your community?

Creating Safe Spaces


In 2017 the organization, GLSEN, surveyed LGBTQ students about their experiences in middle and high school. More than 95% of them reported hearing homophobic remarks at school and over 60% heard this type of language often or frequently. More than 87% heard negative remarks about transgender people, about 46% often or frequently. As a result, almost 60% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 45% because of their gender expression.


Much of this biased behavior stems from ignorance about LGBTQ people and their identities. The more that we interact with LGBTQ members of our community and learn about their experiences, the more we will be able to embrace new ideas, even those that once made us uncomfortable. When we strive to make invisible lives more visible, we build environments that are more compassionate and that include all people.


In the GLSEN study discussed above, almost all LGBTQ students (98.5%) heard “gay” used in a negative way at school. Is this similar to your school experience? Consider the reactions below from LGBTQ students who hear this type of language every day, and think about what you can do to make things different. 


    • “I feel demoralized, as if the world does not care about others.” (David, age 16, Virginia) 
      • “When I hear ‘that’s so gay,’ a chill rushes through my body and my heart drops into the pit of my stomach.” (Kaitlyn, age 17, Michigan)
      • “I get tightness in my chest. Sometimes when I hear it from several people in a large group, I get a rush of anxiety.
Hearing that can really ruin my day.” (Ayanna, age 16, Georgia) .
  • How does it make you feel to hear anti-LGBTQ language or slurs against other groups?
  • What can you do to create safe and inclusive environments for your LGBTQ peers?

 Audre Lorde, “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions.” Homophobia and Education, 1983, New York: Council on Interracial Books for Children.

 GLSEN. 2017 National School Climate Survey.

 GLSEN, “Think B4 You Speak Educators Guide,” 2008,


Lesson Three: LGBTQ History through a Local Lens


Deep Dive into Building Empathy:


Essential Questions:

  • What can local histories tell us about national history? 
  • Why is local history helpful to understand present day inequities facing marginalized people? 
  • What are the consequences of erasing local historic sites and figures?
  • Where can we find the contributions of local figures?


See “why teach local history” on the following page 


Salient Themes/Takeaways:

  • Historical Invisibility
  • Intersectionality
  • Mirrors and windows
  • Local histories 
  • Giving voice to inequities 

Relevant Documents/Lessons:

Library of Congress
Why should we teach about local LGBTQ history?
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived; but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou
Local history has a profound effect on our communities. It’s up to educators to learn and teach students about the hard history in their own backyards.
Leading research points to distrust in “mainstream” media stemming from the slow decline of local news outlets. Once people in our nation stopped being able to see how reporting and news happened and how those stories were told in the papers, once they stopped being able to see how local news complemented, added to, or fit into the national narrative, our trust in media vanished. But democracy dies in darkness. Freedom of speech, and the freedom to tell our stories is the cornerstone to a healthy democracy.
Historical Recovery: The Work of Teaching Intersectional History in our Backyard 
The same is true of history. Real American history is happening right now. It’s happening in your town, your city, on your buses and trains, and it isn’t the same, monolithic, white-centric history that many of us were taught in schools. It is the history of oppressed people, the one that connects the past and the present, and it is the history of indigenous folks and people of color, it is the history of LGBTQ identifying individuals, and unheard voices in the historical canon. You ARE American history. WE are American history. Our ancestors, who were the ‘firsts’ at jobs, in schools and universities, who lived through busing or Civil Rights or the Stonewall rebellion, they are history that matters. 
And as more people gain access to historical documents and online platforms that emphasize equity and justice, we see deeper dives into this real history. A recent, shining, example can be found in the 1619 Project and the reporting on the legacy of slavery that it has inspired. This initiative is an extraordinary undertaking that shows how slavery shaped the United States and continues to affect nearly every facet of American life.
While it’s encouraging to watch this public recovery of history unfold, it’s critical that an accurate account of American history takes place inside the classroom. As we work to better educate ourselves about long-ignored national histories, though, we often miss something right under our noses: local history. 
Students must learn the truth about their own communities. That’s the history that has the most direct impact on the trajectory of their lives. 
Teachers and Students as “Memory Workers”
What does it mean to be a “memory worker” - someone who mines the past for a lost memory, resurrects it for justice in the present? What does it mean to help someone tell their story, or relate a part of their identity that was silenced in the past? 
It’s hard to find real local history in textbooks, and it takes courage to teach these hidden, hard histories. But it’s not hard to help students uncover this history. They can start with the origins of the names of streets, schools and government buildings in their city. Or they can consider how the hard history of our nation played out in their community. They can look in local oral history projects or archives, community centers and local organizations. 
After learning about the slave trade, they might explore the lives of enslaved people, or free people of color who lived in their town. When learning about the courage of youth during Freedom Summer, they can track local activists who worked for the right to vote. Or they can learn about their district’s integration story and compare it to the Little Rock Nine and other stories. 
Local history helps students better understand their community, as well as the inequities in education, poverty, health issues and outcomes and other issues that they see around them every day. 


Grades 9-12

High School students are required to complete two years of United States History and one year of World History based on the NJSLS. The core and elective courses are inquiry  based and require students to engage with historical and analytical thinking. 

  • United States History I (Louisiana Purchase-WWI) 
  • United States History II (1920s-Present)
  • World History and Cultures (1491-Present)
  • African American Studies 
  • Financial Literacy
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Introduction to Human Behavior 

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Advanced Placement Courses 

  • AP US History
  • AP World History
  • AP Human Geography
  • AP US Government and Politics
  • AP MicroEconomics 
  • Model United Nations
  • Mock Trial 

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  • DBQ Project embedded in the 5th-12th grade Social Studies curriculum 

that provides an opportunity for students to analyze historical documents.

  • HMH Platform:Ed My Friend in Learning K-8th grade Social Studies

instructional resource that provides both print and online content.

  • Pearson Realize-With rich and engaging content, embedded assessment with instant data, and flexible classroom management tools, Realize gives you the power to raise interest and achievement for every student
  • Social Studies Weekly-Fourth grade instructional resource that provides 

New Jersey content.

  • Reading Like a Historian embedded in 6-12th grade Social Studies curriculum where students approach history by reading primary source documents. Anchored by these texts, students explore different perspectives of historical events and develop opinions based on their reading.
  • Choices curriculum empowers students to understand the relationship between history and current issues while developing the analytical skills to become thoughtful global citizens.
  • Teaching Tolerance is a free resource for educators that provides materials to supplement the curriculum, to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected.

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  • Jersey City History Fair-students are given the opportunity to participate in a writing competition.
  • Historical Walking Tours-students from our district schools are given the opportunity to visit historical sites throughout Jersey City.
  • Women’s Right to Vote Centennial Celebration–District wide celebration of the Women’s 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment.
  • Partnership with the Apple Tree House-Working with the Apple Tree House provides opportunities for students to tour the property, learn about the history of the area, and hold celebrations.
  • Google Expedition Kits-Is a resource used in the classroom where the students use mobile devices and VR viewers to virtually explore an art gallery or museum, swim underwater, or navigate outer space, without leaving the classroom.
  • Every Kid in a Park-Through the National Park Services every fourth grade student is given the opportunity free of charge to visit any national park in the United States.
  • Gilder Lehrman Hamilton Grant- The Gilder Lehrman Institute is partnered with the producers of Hamilton on the Hamilton Education Program. Jersey City High School students have been invited to integrate Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Era into classroom studies and then see the musical. 

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