New Jersey's Department of Education (DOE) implied that districts that don't adopt its controversial, mandatory state sex-education standards, which go into effect this year, could face "disciplinary action," Gothamist reported.
But the DOE repeatedly declined to say what that discipline might be, even as some school boards rejected the standards, responding to parents who are concerned that these sex-education lessons would be too graphic or explicit, according to Gothamist.
The New Jersey School Boards Association said the sex-education standards, adopted in 2020, "address topics that students should know about," like personal growth and development, pregnancy and parenting, and social and sexual health. The standards discuss health conditions, diseases, personal safety, and other topics related to health and sexual education, Gothamist reported.
By the fifth grade, "all individuals should feel welcome and included regardless of their gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation," and by eighth grade, a student should know "inclusive schools and communities are accepting of all people and make them feel welcome and included," according to the sex-education standards.
A few districts have refused to teach the sex-education standards at all, and at some local school board meetings, district leaders are concerned that state education officials will pressure them into compliance with the standards. Some districts say they will teach sex education on only one day, allowing those that object to stay home that day.
New Jersey law allows any family to opt out of any part of instruction in health, family life or sex education, as long as a child's parent or guardian informs the school in writing that the instruction conflicts with their conscience, or their moral or religious beliefs.
Board of Education curriculum Committee Chair Kate Farley said few parents have opted out of sex education entirely, though some have chosen not to have their children take part in specific lessons. About 95% remain enrolled in the full curriculum, she said.
The conflict between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's state Education Department and local school districts comes as fights over sex education are taking place at school boards around the country, Gothamist noted.
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