Yesterday the New Jersey State Board of Education approved new Student Learning Standards, a practice that occurs every five years. Typically these exercises are pro forma: Standards, after all, align with what we used to call Common Core and votes are traditionally unanimous..
Not this time. Instead, Board members were split and the final vote was 8-4.
Why? According to Vice President Andrew Mulvihill, there was some consternation about the 65-page section on Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, which had the most changes from the 2015 Learning Standards. Among a number of additions is this one (on page 32) that will be taught in 8th grade: “Define vaginal, oral, and anal sex.”
Mulvihill tells me that when the State Board has regional meetings, which are more conducive to public input, he often hears parents with passionate feelings about what is appropriate and inappropriate for their children to learn, especially about sex. When he first reviewed the draft of the standards he approached DOE leaders to explain his concerns but they were “dismissive.” Another Board member, Ernest P. Lepore, suggested at yesterday’s meeting that the DOE might consider a policy that parents specifically “opt-in” to lessons on vaginal, oral, and anal sex, especially since parents often miss the notice to “opt-out.”. This idea was dismissed as well, with the DOE claiming that if the Board didn’t approve the whole package (663 pages) that it would all have to be redone.
“I couldn’t in good conscience vote for this, beyond my own views,” Mulvihill said, “after hearing the passion on both sides from the public.”
The meeting was led by Commissioner Lamont Repollet and Deputy Commissioner Linda Eno. Their mood was “jovial,” with Repollet apparently eager to assume his new post as president of Kean University, ranked 129th among 170 regional four-year colleges.