There is a growing firestorm in New Jersey over a law that will require that sexual orientation and gender identity instruction be taught to Garden State children in kindergarten through third grade beginning in the fall.

Republican leaders on Monday called on Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Nick Scutari, D-Union, to hit the brakes on the state's implementation of its curriculum until public hearings could be held.

The sex education law, which was passed two years ago, indicates there can be discussions with 5-year-old students about what happens if you have "boy" parts but you might feel like a girl, and vice versa.

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For the first time, Murphy addressed the issue during a stop Monday in Burlington County.

After holding a news conference on affordable housing, the governor was asked what he would say to parents and others who feel it’s not appropriate to have very young children exposed to such lesson plans.

Parents deserve a say

“There’s some sort of sense that parents have no say and I would just say emphatically parents deserve absolutely to have a say in this sort of stuff, along with all other interested parties, but probably none more interested than parents,” said Murphy.

Murphy, a Democrat, also cautioned against bigoted rhetoric.

“I don’t like the fact that some are using this as an opportunity to score political points and to further divide us versus them," he said. "In particular, I say that on behalf of the LGBTQIA plus communities.”

The governor did not elaborate or say whether the state curriculum standards needed to be revised.

Murphy said the requirements, or standards that have been adopted are not very prescriptive, but “if folks think they need to be adjusted or altered, and there’s a reasonable argument for that, count me as somebody who’s willing to entertain that.”

He pointed out the state Board of Education voted on this issue in 2020 but “local boards are required to have this implemented by this coming fall, which is why I think this has come up as a topic.”

Republicans on offense

Several New Jersey Republican lawmakers and a congressman decried the plan to teach young kids about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Eight GOP leaders from the state Senate called on the top Democrats to halt the curriculum implementation in order to allow parents to catch up to speed.

"Put simply, parents are telling us they do not understand how standards they view as extreme and age-inappropriate were adopted by an unelected, politically-appointed board, and they are outraged at how your administration is implementing them through the New Jersey Department of Education," the letter to Murphy says.

"Further, we believe the Legislature should publicize and hold public hearings to give parents the forum they desire to discuss their various curriculum concerns, including both content and the process for adopting and implementing changes. We should empower parents, not ignore them," a separate letter to Scutari said.

The GOP letter was signed by Republican Leader Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, and Sens. Robert Singer, R-Ocean; Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris; Kristin Corrado, R-Passaic; Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen; Anthony M. Bucco, R-Morris; Michael Doherty, R-Warren; Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth.

 

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J. 2nd District, said he plans to introduce the “My Child, My Choice Act," saying these lesson plans were "outrageous" and "just wrong."

"Instead of teaching our second graders about math, science, and reading, Governor Murphy and the state of New Jersey are threatening the safety and security of our school children," Van Drew said.

"While every child should go to school and feel accepted and comfortable, we should not be compromising the safety of our young children by allowing restrooms and changing rooms be available to any child regardless of their actual gender. The whole country saw late last year the terrible event that took place in Loudon County Virginia where a young girl was sexually assaulted in the girl's restroom by a boy who dressed in girls' clothing. As legislators, our job is to protect our constituents and the American people; New Jersey is doing just the opposite. These children are young. They are concerned with improving their reading and writing. Not learning about gender identity and sexual orientation."

State Sen. Jim Holzapfel, R-Ocean, said “parents are confused and troubled. They see the left-wing state moving in and taking over their role of raising their children and passing on their spiritual, cultural and societal beliefs to a new generation, they don’t understand how this happened.”

Assemblymen Greg McGuckin, R-Ocean, said “it is clear that Murphy and the Democrats have a ‘woke’ agenda, and they want to use the schools to manipulate the minds of even the youngest children, the new curriculum standards are an outright scheme to indoctrinate our kids and eliminate the influences of moms and dads across the state. If we don’t stop this before September, there is no telling what might be next.”

State Sen. Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said “first- and second-grade students should not have a course on gender identity. It is a complicated subject that would be confusing to very young children.”

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

NJ county fairs make a comeback: Check out the schedule for 2022

UPDATED 4/10: A current list of county fairs happening across the Garden State for 2022. From rides, food, animals, and hot air balloons, each county fair has something unique to offer.

(Fairs are listed in geographical order from South NJ to North NJ)

2021 NJ property taxes: See how your town compares

Find your municipality in this alphabetical list to see how its average property tax bill for 2021 compares to others. You can also see how much the average bill changed from 2020. For an interactive map version, click here. And for the full analysis by New Jersey 101.5, read this story.