Categories: NJ DOE

How Will Murphy’s Education Department ‘Penalize’ Districts Who Don’t Teach New Sex Education Standards?

Yesterday’s marathon State Board of Education meeting—six hours and change—was noteworthy for multiple reasons, not least the clear frustration expressed by board members towards Gov. Phil Murphy’s Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan: more on that to come.

Certainly, all New Jersey boards of education, let alone the State Board that oversees the State DOE, have been under much stress: take learning loss from the pandemic, add in parent pushback about new sexual health standards (codified during the height of the pandemic when everyone was out of the loop), and, really, who wants this (unpaid) job? Allen-McMillan didn’t help matters when two weeks ago she announced districts would be “penalized” if they didn’t teach all the standards. 

What does that mean? Who knows?

After the meeting I decided to ask Vice President Andrew Mulvihill if he knew what those penalties were. He told me he had made inquiries to DOE staffers and was informed (somewhat vaguely) that those penalties could trigger involvement from the State Board of Examiners and the School Ethics Commission.

What would that involvement entail? Mulvihill didn’t say. But here’s an educated guess: the State Board of Examiners is the educator licensing agency in NJ so it can decide to pull a license of an administrator or a teacher. Is the DOE envisioning pulling licenses for those who fail to comply with the new standards (described here)?

The School Ethics Commission has the authority to penalize board members and even unseat them. Is the DOE envisioning removing board members from their elected posts? 

All this is unclear. But the DOE’s uncompromising, untransparent stance seems tactically designed to alienate those it is supposed to serve.

Laura Waters

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