Schools would have to post sex-ed lessons online for parents in NJ
In an effort to give parents both a greater understanding of their school's sex education teachings and the opportunity to ask questions about what will be taught, the head of the New Jersey Senate Education Committee is introducing new transparency legislation.
Under tremendous push-back from parents across the state, Gov. Phil Murphy paused plans to expand sex education curriculum to kindergarten and above with talk about gender identify and LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Sen. Vin Gopal says there has been a tremendous amount of misinformation from both sides of the debate, and his "Transparency in Health & Sex Education Curriculum Act" seeks to combat that.
"We have seen professional political operatives and politicians purposely spread misinformation and false claims that cause concern for well-meaning parents," Gopal said in a statement, "Parents should be empowered with all the information they need to make decisions for their children."
Under Gopal's plan, districts would have to post the exact curriculum to be taught on-line for parents to view. Parents would then have the right to meet with school officials to ask any questions they may have. Ultimately, parents would be able to opt-out of any sex education's classes if they disagreed with what was being taught.
When Murphy announced the pause to implementing the new curriculum in the Fall, he agreed parents needed to have a greater voice.
"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.
"There really is an obligation to get out the correct information, for the superintendent of schools and the board of education, in particular, to say here’s what we’re doing in our community, here’s how we’re developing a curriculum,” said Rich Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators
According to the New Jersey Senate Democratic Office, the Gopal legislation would do the following:
- Mandate that all school curriculums be uploaded to their Board of Education website 14 days prior to start of the school year. By doing this, parents and guardians will know exactly what is in their local school district's curriculum. This will fight the misinformation from fake curriculums being distributed online that were created by third parties and not local governments. Transparency in local curriculums is already strongly recommended by the New Jersey School Boards Association.
- Prior to a school district implementing a Health and Sex Education Curriculum, the following needs to happen:
- The district needs to provide either a public opportunity for parents or guardians with children in that specific school district to ask questions and review the curriculum; or,
- The district needs to provide individual opportunities for parents or guardians from the specific district to meet with school officials to ask questions/review the contents of the curriculum. This opportunity should be available conveniently on the Board of Education's official website. The link should include clear instructions on how a parent or guardian can opt-out their child from sex education curriculum if they choose, and parents should be advised of how to opt-out. (In New Jersey, parents have had the right to opt out of the family life curriculum for their children since 1980, when N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.7, the Parents Right to Conscience Act, took effect.)
- The bill reinforces the difference between standards and curriculums. Standards are a blueprint that describe expectations of what students should know and be able to do. They guide the development of curriculum by each individual district. Curriculum is developed by teachers and school district leadership. It is proposed to the local board of education, which must, by law, vote to adopt it. Individual districts have control over their curriculum and specific lesson plans and that is reaffirmed in this bill.
Gopal says he will not wait to move the bill, and has scheduled to introduce it in his own committee on May 9.
It is still unclear if there would be enough time to resolve any issues before any new curriculum would be implemented in the fall.