The New Jersey State Department of Education just announced that school districts that don’t adhere to the new Sexual Health and Physical Education course standards will be “penalized,” with consequences varying depending on the “severity” of the lack of compliance.
That fact comes courtesy of the DOE’s communications manager, Laura Fredrick, who emailed a statement in response to a journalist at the Bergen Record (behind a paywall).
‘Districts that do not teach the standards will be penalized for instruction and program in the appropriate curricular area,’ though the nature of the penalty might vary. ‘We couldn’t speculate because it would be a fact-specific issue and the severity of the ramifications could vary, as would be the case for other statutory/regulatory violations,’ she said, when asked what those penalties could look like.
A growing number of districts may find out (although the standards themselves also address non-controversial topics like mental health, physical education, bullying, and peer pressure). And the DOE will have have some deliberating to do: is it a violation of compliance if, like in East Hanover, all sex education is crammed into an optional 30-minute block on the last day of school?
And does the DOE’s latest statement contradict Gov. Phil Murphy’s statement that local district officials are free to adjust the standards if they think they’re not “age-appropriate?”
As recounted earlier this week, school boards representing Cedar Grove Schools District, Sussex-Wantage Regional Schools District, and Chester Schools District are pushing back on the new standards, either trying to recall board members, rewriting the standards, or passing resolutions against them. Now school board members in Garwood Schools District (Union County) have passed a resolution preventing the district from implementing the updated curriculum.
At the meeting last week, parents decried various aspects of the standards that they find offensive. Here’s a sample comment from the Patch:
“One community member said the New Jersey Education Association ‘should be ashamed of themselves’ and should be ‘locked up’ for ‘slipping disgusting sex education material throughout the K-8 curriculum.’
She further criticized the proposed curriculum’s mention of ‘abortion, anal sex, masturbation, puberty blockers, In-Vitro Fertilization, sexual identity and gender identity.’
‘I say keep our precious children to the innocence of their lives,’ she said. ‘Every single person pushing the sex ed curriculum, inclusive of the subject matter, is a sexual predator in my book and should be in jail.’
For an accurate description of the content and approval process of the new standards, see here. Also, see DOE Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan’s “clarification” of the standards themselves.