Thursday, the governor announced that he has ordered the State Department of Education to review the standards for sexual education in New Jersey two years ago, following the guidelines among some parents and Republican officials.
The Democratic governor said the Department would "give further clarification on what age-appropriate guidelines are for our students."
"My administration is committed to ensuring that all of our students are capable of living a healthy and productive life now and in the future," Murphy said.
Murphy has been criticised for revealing what is actually included in the guidelines, which he said were distorted as New Jersey has become the latest frontier over a national cultural debate about what students should be taught in classrooms.
Unfortunately, some politicians attempting to divide and score political points have misrepresented our learning standards, Murphy said in a statement.
Murphy said that the state has "seen a few sample lesson plans being circulated that have not been adopted in our school districts and do not accurately reflect the standard."
"Any educational material that isn't age-appropriate should be immediately revised by local authorities," says the author.
The governor didn't say how long the department's standards review would take.
The purpose of this outline is to teach New Jersey students about sexual orientation, gender identity, and anatomy. They were adopted by the State Board of Education in 2020 and are expected to take effect in the fall.
Murphy said in his statement Wednesday that standards were "created over five months" in collaboration with parents, experts, and teachers "to ensure that our children receive age-appropriate and inclusive health education, which is fundamental for their physical, mental, and emotional development and well-being."
At a time when we must prioritize student mental health and academic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, it is vital that our standards also promote inclusivity and respect for every child, including LGBTQ youth, said the governor.
The issue has gained new attention in recent weeks as the Westfield school board shared model resources as districts prepare to meet standards. Officials said the findings were based on state samples and aren't mandated by the state, but they will not specificly be included in the district's curriculum.
Over the last week, have been sharing the papers. Opponents say the sample materials are too detailed and warn that the state's new standards will lead to children being taught sensitive subjects at an all-time high, undermining the rights of parents.
On Monday, top Republicans in the state Senate sent letters to Murphy and Senate President, D-Union, urging them to postpone implementing the standards and hold public hearings on them, even if they were publicly available before the state Board of Education approved them.
Republicans argue that the state adopted the standards at a time when people were in the thick of the epidemic and that they now have heard from "a rapidly growing number of parents who are extremely concerned" after discovering changes "they believe are inappropriate for their children or in conflict with their values."
According to a Tuesday, state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, chairman of the Senate's education committee, called on Murphy's office and the state Department of Education to "give clear" instructions, owing to "the amount of misinformation out there and questions from parents."
According to a statement Wednesday, the state Department of Education said standards were "designed to ensure that all students acquire the health and physical literacy skills necessary to lead a life of wellness at developmentally appropriate levels, including knowledge and aptitudes related to sexual health."
"Any allegations to the contrary misrepresent the guidelines," the Department says.
The department said it "does not mandate a specific curriculum," and that it is up to local school districts to "create curriculum, tailored to and in consultation with their communities, in order to meet local standards."
Under, established in 2014, students had to learn by second grade to "utilise appropriate terminology to identify body parts and explain how body parts work together to support wellness."
Students required to be taught to "determine the relationship of personal health practices and behaviors on an individual's body systems" by fourth grade; they must to recognize "respect and acceptance for individuals, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and culture, and provide a foundation for the prevention and resolution of conflicts."
According to the latest standards, "all individuals should feel welcome and included regardless of their gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation" by the end of fifth grade.
Teachers should "discuss the variety of ways people express their gender, as well as how gender-role stereotypes may be beneficial," according to them.
By fifth grade, students should "describe gender-role stereotypes and their potential impact on self and others," be able to "differentiate (for students) between sexual orientation and gender identity" and "demonstrate ways to promote dignity and respect for all people."
By eighth grade, students should be able to "diffecate between gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation," and teachers should "concern a program for the school to promote dignity and respect for people of all races, gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations in the school community."
The following three sample lessons from the last month discuss a range of topics related to the standards including bullying, diverse families, and gender identity across various grade levels. A group of advocates for youth drafted the models.
You might feel like you're a kid even if you have body parts that some people might say you are'girl' parts, according to one of the documents. You might feel like you're a kid even if you have body parts that some people might suggest you are'boy' parts. But you might not feel like you're a boy or a girl, nevertheless, you're a little bit of both. No matter how you feel, you're always normal.
State Sen. Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, spoke last week, saying, "I truly believe New Jersey has lost its damn mind."
According to Schepisi, "the most outrageous part" is the resources provided by the Rutgers University group Answer and Advocates for Youth and Youth Tech Health. One clip, designed for children aged 10 to 14, says it's "normal" to watch pornography, but it's "exaggerated" from reality. Other topics include masturbation and hormone blockers.
The state Department of Education has a link to the series of courses involving health and physical education.
The superintendent of Westfield schools said that "the sample plans included a web page that was included as a link to illustrate the type of educational resources for school districts that the Department of Education shared."
"We have stated repeatedly that these are only resources and that they are not state-mandated," he added.
Murphy's motion to review the guidelines, according to Tom Szymanski, was "a victory for all the common-sense School Board members, parents, and concerned citizens who wrote letters, made phone calls, and made their voices heard in this fight for our kids' education."
"But this fight is not done," said Governor Murphy, who has only expressed desire to'reexamine' the standards, and we must remain vigilant so that he does not force his radical agenda on us once the pressure is off. "End these standards once and for all, or we'll ensure that the voters finish your political careers at the ballot box in 2022 and 2023."
This comes as a result of growing national debate over sex education in schools as acceptance for gay and trans people has increased across the country. Last month, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis received a fever pitch in Florida, where he was chastised for prohibiting schools in the United States from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in pre-school.
A half a dozen other Republicans have adopted similar legislation or indicated they would follow suit.
Similar concerns have arisen over how race is taught in school, with warnings about becoming a flashpoint in recent years.
The sex-ed debate comes just months before the closely watched mid-term elections, as Republicans seek to restore control of Congress. It comes months after Murphy achieved a second term by a more favorable margin, while Democrats retained control of the state legislature, but Republicans won seven seats.
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