NJ parents, schools, warned over opting out of sex-ed classes
Parents and school districts are being warned about continuing to push back on new sex-education standards being implemented in all New Jersey schools.
Education officials in Gov. Phil Murphy's administration issued their strongest language yet regarding districts that fail to comply with the new standards, telling them they would face severe punishment for noncompliance.
If districts do not comply with the new standards, they face loss of local control, monitoring by the state and, in extreme cases, loss of state aid.
As for parents who do not want their children exposed to the new lesson plans, it won't be as easy as holding them out of school when the classes are taught.
Parents or guardians will be required to write a formal letter to the school principal detailing how the lessons conflict with their conscience or sincerely held moral or religious beliefs. If parents do not write the letter and hold their kids out of school, it could be considered an unexcused absence and potentially impact advancement or graduation standards.
While most of New Jersey's more than 500 school districts have complied with the new standards, a few have tried to implement creative workarounds.
Districts are generally given broad latitude on how to implement state minimum standards for education. The Department of Education does not require specific lesson plans. It's up to each district to craft their own.
Some districts and county governments have publicly condemned the standards, but are expected to comply in some form.
Others have decided to create an opt-in policy, where parents have to actively tell the school they do want their kids to attend sex education classes.
That would appear to be a violation of state regulations and could subject those districts to sanctions from the Murphy administration.
State law does allow parents to opt out of health classes as a general rule.
As the new school year begins, education officials did not specifically address the opt-in rules or announce they were investigating any specific district or circumstance.