LGBT lessons ‘shoved done our children’s throats’ — NJ official won’t resign
HACKENSACK — A city school board member is resisting calls for her resignation in response to an email in which she said she found the state's new LGBT curriculum law to be "incredibly disturbing and frankly shocking."
Frances Cogelja, who was elected in April to a three-year term, had sent the district superintendent an email asking whether parents like her can “opt out” of the requirement, which mandates that social studies lessons beginning in the 2020-21 school year "accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people."
Emails between public officials like Cogelja are matter of public record and the message was obtained by activists under the state's Open Public Records Act. The message drew dozens of angry people to a recent school board meeting and caught the attention of Gov. Phil Murphy, who did not call for Cogelja to step down, but other members of his party have.
Cogelja has since said that she has no ill feelings toward people "who have a different sexual lifestyle."
Here's what her original email said:
"I find it repugnant that sexual preferences have anything to do with their contributions or achievements in society," Cogelja says in the email published by OutInJersey.net.
"We have a large percentage of kids who cannot read or do math at their grade level, and our governor thinks we should be wasting valuable instruction time on this nonsense. I am disgusted and appalled. I fear where we are headed as a nation.
Everywhere I turn, this alternate lifestyle narrative is being shoved done (sic) our children’s throats. Where does it end???"
Garden State Equality has called for Cogelja to resign as has state Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, Democrats representing Hackensack.
"Fostering a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students should be the objective for our teachers, administrators, and schools," Weinberg and Johnson said Friday. "Frances Cogelja must resign. State law requires curriculum to cover LGBTQ contributions and history be taught. If a Board of Education Trustee member finds that so repugnant, she shouldn’t be a Board trustee."
On Saturday, Gov. Phil Murphy, added his thoughts.
"I was proud to sign legislation requiring public school districts to teach LGBTQ history," Murphy said on Twitter. "Hackensack Board of Education Trustee Frances Cogelja's recent statements do not represent our values of inclusion and understanding."
Cogelja has since apologized for causing offense but stood by her First Amendment right to free expression and has said that she would not step down, NorthJersey.com reported.
In statement that she provided to the Daily Voice, she said she has "no disdain or disgust or any other negative feeling toward people who have a different sexual lifestyle from my own" and that she believes "conversations having to do with sexuality should be had at home between parents and their children."
According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network of New Jersey, state law already required lessons about women, "African Americans, Italian Americans, American Indians, Arab Americans and other ethnic groups central to the economic, political, and social development of New Jersey and the United States with emphasis on materials that celebrate the cultures of these groups while combating negative and harmful stereotypes. New Jersey statute also requires all schools to have course of study in the Holocaust and other genocides."
Examples of LGBTQ-related history lessons provided in an Our Family Coalition guide for California educators includes women who crossdressed as men to fight in the Civil War, the McCarthyist Lavender Scare of the 1950s, the debate over the adoption and repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the military, and the role of figures like Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.