Professor Spotlight: Don Romesburg

When looking back at what one learned in their U.S. history class throughout the K-12 years, memories flashback of learning about Martin Luther King Jr. fighting for equality, Hitler trying to take over the world or the Native Americans and the Trail of Tears. 

What many students do not learn about is Harvey Milk and his accomplishments for the LGBT community or the Lavender Scare, which led to the largest firing of members of the U.S. government because of their sexual orientation. When taking a closer look, one will notice the lack of inclusion of the LGBT community in their U.S. history books.

Currently, Don Romesburg, the department chair for women’s and gender studies at SSU, is fighting to change the lack of inclusion of the LGBT community in K-12 U.S. history classes. He is currently working with two other scholars, Leila Rupp and David Donahue, to change the California K-12 U.S. history framework and include events in history involving the LGBT community.

“In the summer of 2011 SB 48 the FAIR education was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. It, among other things, mandates the inclusion of the roles and contributions of LGBT Americans in K-12 U.S. history education,” said Romesburg. “It was supposed to be implemented in January of 2012 but the California department of education did not put any funding toward the implementation and did not tell anyone how to implement the FAIR act.”

Professor Romesburg along with Rupp and Donahue, have created a new framework, which they hope becomes the California U.S. history framework within the next five to 10 years. They also hope that by doing this, California becomes a model for other states across the country and follow suit. 

“The function of U.S. history in grades K-12 is to make young people into engaged and informed citizens,” said Romesburg. “Exclusion of LGBT people from how we teach about the past has meant that, effectively, LGBT people are not considered a part of the tapestry of American history.” 

He believes that the lack of inclusion of the LGBT community has essentially provided students with a false version of the past.

Other than just providing more honest accounts of U.S. history, Romesburg believes that including LGBT materials in the classroom will help create a more accepting and understanding society. 

Meaning that LGBT students will have an easier time in schools and all students will have a greater sense of awareness of the LGBT community.

Aside from spending his time trying to make history with these new revisions to the California U.S. history framework, Romesburg has spent a lot of time changing the lives of students. 

“He inspired me to declare WGS [womens gender studies] as a major from the first course I took with him,” said Katrina Pimental, former student of Romesburg. “He challenged me academically and as a person in the ways I had always hoped college would. His professionalism and warmth enabled me to feel like I had a worthy voice in the classroom while reminding me to leave space to learn from others.” 

Nadia Paniagua, also Romesburg’s former student, said, “Professor Romesburg is amazing, without a doubt he was one of the best professors I had at SSU. He is very passionate about the topics he teaches about and he definitely enriched my college experience. His class was something I looked forward to every week.”

“One thing that makes woman’s and gender studies special and important as a field is that social justice is at the center of why we do what we do,” said Romesburg. “Every class and everything we study and write about has some kind of eye toward making lives more livable, and how we can make the world more just. I love being able to be a part of that project day in and day out.”

If anyone would like to help pass this new framework, Romesburg is encouraging everyone to go to surveys2.cde.ca.gov/on the California Department of Education’s website, and leave comments about how they feel this framework would change society. To view the whole report of these changes visit clgbthistory.org/resources/fair-framework.