School districts that refuse to implement New Jersey’s new sex-ed standards can be penalized, the state has warned after a small number of school boards and county governments backed down.
Using the most blunt language in months, the state Department of Education said districts that do not implement changes to the sex and health education portion of the state learning standards will be subject to “disciplinary measures”. The state also clarified that parents who do not want their children to attend these classes must write a letter to the principal explaining that the classes contradict their personal values and beliefs.
The statement comes amid continued criticism from some Republican parents and lawmakers of the state’s progressive approach to sex education. The vast majority of the state’s roughly 600 public school districts have adopted courses that meet state standards. The new standards must be taught from the current school year.
New Jersey’s student learning standards are mandatory, “and failure to comply may result in disciplinary action,” according to a statement from the Department of Education. “In order for any child to be exempted from any part of the teaching of health, family life or sex education, his or her parent or guardian must notify the principal of the school in writing that the teaching is contrary to his or her conscience or sincere moral or religious beliefs,” said the This bolsters a statement released in July that said districts that flout the standards would be penalized.
The standards are minimum expectations, and the state authorizes school districts to implement them very broadly. Parents can also remove their children from health classes, according to state law, but some school boards appear to be moving towards rejecting this option and having parents “opt in” to classes.
The Lakewood School District in South Jersey has officially adopted a membership policy, according to its school board minutes. An Aug. 24 superintendent’s report on the district’s website says parents or guardians must “register” if they want their child to participate in the “Social and Sexual Health” and “Pregnancy and Parenting” components of the program. health. Students will automatically be excluded from classes unless they complete opt-in forms, according to the district’s website.
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The Department of Education uses the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) to track how well school districts are complying with education requirements. Districts self-assess and the state verifies the information they provide. Districts that score less than 80% in any of the five NJQSAC domains will be required to create a performance improvement plan. This could include state intervention to monitor, the statement said.
“As a result of the assessment, the district is placed on a performance continuum that will determine the level of oversight, technical assistance, and support it receives,” the state said of non-compliant districts. The state will also determine “whether additional monitoring or intervention is warranted.”
Some school districts have expressed disapproval of the state standards, but few have outright rejected them.
The Garwood School Board passed a resolution not to adopt a curriculum that addresses some of the topics in the new sex education standards. The Sussex County Board of Commissioners has passed a ‘parental rights’ resolution which affirms parental control over what children learn in health classes. And the Sussex-Wantage Regional Board of Education has passed a resolution saying it “disagrees” with the state’s changes to health standards.
New Education Standards
The Department of Education under Governor Phil Murphy has made several changes to the sex education standards in 2020. Changes include the introduction of mature sex terms and discussions of gender in the early years against the standards previous ones.
Parents’ groups, many of them politically conservative, as well as right-wing activists who support actions such as banning the books, have accused the Murphy administration of going too far in allegedly interfering with personal values. The state, on the other hand, said schools had considerable leeway in how they enforced the standards and that they had been changed to prepare children for an increasingly complex world where they are faced with mature content at an earlier age.
The Atlantic County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in May “urging Governor Murphy and the New Jersey State Department of Education to stop implementing their sex education program for students. of high school/elementary school and to require all local school boards to hold public meetings. feedback on sex education prior to implementation. »