With the beginning of school just around the corner, Republican State Senators hosted a virtual hearing Aug. 23 to discuss sex education, state curriculum mandates, and improving parental rights in education.
The event was chaired by State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-26) and included two North Jersey lawmakers who have raised the issues of the new health and sex education curriculum to be taught this school year: Kristin Corrado (R-40) and Holly Schepisi (R-39).
At issue are health and sex education standards that the New Jersey Department of Education adopted in June 2020. Republican lawmakers contend that the standards delve into a range of sex and sexuality-related topics before children reach appropriate ages for learning about them. Additionally, they say that state officials adopted the standards at a time when public focus was diverted to the coronavirus pandemic and thus the standards never received full scrutiny.
The lawmakers heard from school board members, experts, and concerned parents for over two hours, whose objections focused on parental rights they feel is being ignored when it comes to objection around the appropriate grades to discuss such topics and, as gender expression and identity, sexual activity and masturbation, especially for kindergarten through sixth grade.
“We do not co-parent with the government…when we raise questions we are called extremists,” said Eric Simpkin, a board of education candidate in Voorhees. “We can not wait five years to revisit these standards, it needs to be done now.”
Panelists and politicians offered that there is a disconnect with local school boards and parents on one side and state educational leaders, including the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the powerful teachers union, on the other.
“NJEA ideology is separate from teachers,” said panelist Kathy Stanzione, a former teacher and school board member. “The fear factor they have been placing with parents is the same one they do with teachers.”
Corrado and Pennacchio have previously framed the issue as reducing and eliminating any role of parents in what is being taught in schools.
Hearing from Parents
“Parents are angry. They feel ignored, helpless, and frustrated,” said Corrado (R-40) earlier this year. “With parenting comes responsibilities, and Trenton bureaucrats are usurping that authority and relegating Moms and Dads to spectators in the raising of their children. The role of parents is sacrosanct, and they should have a say in every aspect of the education of their children.”
Pennacchio added “The (Murphy) Administration wants to remove parents from the equation…There is no mechanism in the law that allows parents of 4- and 5-year-olds to opt out of sexual identity and orientation lessons. At best, there is a lot of ambiguity and confusion about these new rules and what they mean for our children, and that’s by design.”
One school board member said the state is holding the threat of reducing funding if they did not adopt and implement the curriculum.
“They want to indoctrinate our children with this nonsense,” stated Garwood Board of Education member Sal Piarulli. “Its extortion when they threaten to cut out funding if we aren’t teaching (sex ed). We need to get back to teaching kids math, science.”
Schepisi raised the issue of the resource material being available to kids as inappropriate and needed to be looked at. State Sen. Michael Testa (R-1) offered that if he was to show the material to children he lived next to it would be a violation of Megan’s Law.
“There has been a controversy over the false narrative that we want to ban books,” said Schepisi. “Parents are more focused on sexually explicit material that are not appropriate for an 11-12 year old.”
Schepisi touched off much of the controversy over the 2020 revised standards when her April 5 Facebook post expressing concerns over the standards went viral. “I truly think New Jersey has lost its damn mind,” she wrote, after clicking on links included in sample lesson plans. The sample curriculum Schepisi viewed, , which was not being used by any New Jersey school district, was drafted by Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Youth and called the curriculum “totally age-inappropriate and highly sexualized,”
Schepisi noted at the time that the outreach lawmakers have received from superintendents, teachers, board of education members and parents, “it’s clear they feel completely blindsided (by the new requirements). This occurred with no transparency and well before educators, parents and local school boards had a say.”
Schepisi warned that “there are a whole host of bills that are coming down the pipe that …attempt to take the parent out of the equation.”
Expert testimony was offered as well that argued that the concepts being taught could have long lasting psychological damage and that teachers at the younge grade levels are not trained to teach about anal, oral and vagainal sex and the physical and mental effects it will have in their future.
While most panelist stressed that their view on the issue were more mainstream then what Democrats and NJEA would have your to believe and more concerned about the role of parents in a child’s life and not wanting to oversxulaize children, at least one parent who testified took a harder edge when she compared the government’s actions to the Gestapo.
“When it comes to the LGBTQ+…whether that behavior is accepted in my household is no one’s business,” said Emerson resident Charlotte Colon, who has she pulled her children out of public schools because of the curriculum. “Educate, not indoctrinate…I am not an extremist but I take being called that as a badge of honor.”