Teaching or indoctrinating? NJ students get social justice lesson under mandatory LGBT law
🏳🌈 Princeton has contracted with a nonprofit group to teach LGBT history
🏳🌈 The group's lesson plan includes social justice concepts
🏳🌈 Nonprofit was recently caught saying they sneak gender lessons into classrooms
PRINCETON — A nonprofit LGBT youth advocacy group will be using state-mandated lessons on gay and lesbian history to instruct students on concepts promoted by social justice activists, a New Jersey 101.5 investigation has found.
Princeton Middle School partnered with local nonprofit HiTOPS, which teaches sexual health-related programs at public schools, to create three lessons through the district's Pathways courses.
The "comprehensive lessons on LGBTQIA+ history and allyship" will begin this week, Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Tew said in a letter sent to parents earlier this month.
The state's LGBT and inclusiveness curriculum mandate, which Murphy signed into law in 2019 and was first implemented in middle and high schools in the 2021-22 school year, is supposed to "accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people."
But allyship, which has become a more common term in recent years, has a more political connotation. It's directly tied to the social justice movement and activism.
Political reaction to state education mandates
The lessons implemented by HiTOPS suggest that advocates will be using a captive audience of schoolchildren to advance a politically narrow view of LGBT issues.
The inclusivity mandate faced criticism before and after its implementation, primarily from Republican lawmakers and parents who worried the materials would be age-inappropriate or usurp parents on the teaching of morality.
More recently, separate instruction on sex and gender identity has come under fire by conservative parents, resulting in a small but growing number of school districts abandoning that particular guideline.
HiTOPS did not respond to specific requests for comment.
What is allyship?
Exact definitions of allyship can vary but many definitions state it's active support for minority groups.
Allyship was the 2021 word of the year for Dictionary.com. The website defines allyship as "the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership."
"Allies need to participate in the fight for social justice," according to the Tulane University School of Social Work.
Princeton Public Schools says allyship is about "coming together"
Princeton is focused on creating a welcoming environment for its students, district spokeswoman Lori Perlow said in a statement to New Jersey 101.5.
"We recognize there are varying definitions of allyship. Princeton Public Schools views allyship as a means of coming together for a common cause or purpose. Our common cause and purpose involves creating a school environment where all students are welcome and feel a sense of belonging," Perlow said.
Perlow said its lessons will fulfill state mandates on lessons that must be taught in schools. A virtual information session for parents will be held on Nov. 28. Parents will also be able to access all materials used in the courses, Tew said.
Tew said district staff will be in the classroom to monitor while the courses take place.
What are New Jersey's laws on mandated lessons in schools?
Parents were told in the letter that they couldn't opt their children out of the courses because of two state laws.
The first law cited by Princeton mandates that schools teach history about LGBT people and people with disabilities.
The second law mandates schools include a curriculum about inclusivity and diversity.
But neither law specifically mentions allyship.
Gov. Phil Murphy's office did not respond to a request for comment to clarify the law.
Nonprofit sneaks gender lessons into other courses?
HiTOPS made headlines this year when conservative activists caught its employees admitting that the group adds gender and sex lessons into unrelated courses so that parents can't opt out.
The superintendent at the time said the district "strongly disagree[s] with how representatives of the organization allegedly encouraged bypassing parental consent."
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