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New Sex Education Standards Target in New Jersey

Last year, Scott Shields hired a painter for his home, a transgender man. I pulled the children aside to do it.

His children in kindergarten and third grade had already been introduced to different genders, so they easily grasped the concept.

“Once I fixed it, they got it. It seems like the kids pick up on these things and the earlier they understand these concepts, the easier it will be to process later,” he said. “I don’t think they know about hormones or reassignment surgery because it’s not their age.”

Shields is a parent in support of New Jersey’s latest sex education standards, which are set to roll out in schools this fall, and are now being targeted by conservative parents and Republican lawmakers. He called it “Trenton’s attack on parental rights.”

For second graders, the new norm means teachers discuss gender role stereotypes and how people can express how they feel. By the end of fifth grade, students are able to distinguish between sexual orientation and gender identity.

And by eighth grade, teachers should develop plans to promote dignity and respect all gender expressions, and students should know the differences between gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. In Grade 12, students learn about birth control options, STDs, and consent.

“It seems counterintuitive to me that this is somehow seen as harmful or promoting something. You can see how young people in Japan are being made scapegoats, and that’s terrible.

“Overwhelming for our kids”

Researchers and experts say parents are overwhelmingly supportive of expanding sex education, but some parents disagree with the new standards. They say it’s overkill, raw in nature, and inappropriate for young children.

“You want to teach acceptance, that is one thing. We can’t tell you what to do with your body parts,” said Nancy Weste, who lives in Passaic. “It’s overwhelming for kids. They just want to be with their friends.”

Weuste became concerned about what schools teach young children after delving into state senator Holly Schepisi’s (R-Bergen) model material shared on Facebook last week. Shepisi shared one of her sophomore lessons in her plan, titled “Understanding Our Bodies,” which details how to distinguish between male and female body parts. increase.

“When do you draw the line?” asked Weuste, whose daughter is in high school in the fall.

The new standards were approved by the State Board of Education in June 2020.

“Stir this”

Montclair researchers Eva Goldfarb and Lisa Lieberman studied 30 years of literature on sex education and its impact on children. They say reactions to the new standards are dominated by a loud minority seeking to capitalize on a national debate focused on classroom instruction about the LGBT community.

“The majority of parents support quality and comprehensive sex education. is not true,” Lieberman said.

After conservative media aired a segment about New Jersey’s new standards — Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity debated on Fox News last week — lawmakers launched a bill aimed at limiting the level of sex education taught in schools. and likened the expanded guidelines to child abuse.

Bergen County Republican Senator Holly Shepisi said she “politely opposes” researchers who advertise that they are teaching sex education to young students. (Daniella Hemminghouse of the New Jersey Monitor)

Shepisi told the New Jersey Monitor that this isn’t about politics, it’s about being a caring parent.

“I am a true moderate who supports LGBTQ youth. “I think a lot of the frustration and anger that parents express is due to how these standards they deem extreme were adopted.”

Her main concern, she said, is when she’s being introduced to students, not the topics being taught. I’m worried that they’re trying to convince you that it’s something you’re not.

Republican senators wrote to the governor, demanding that the governor suspend enforcement, and said they wanted to hold public hearings on the issue. It held the conference, but critics say it came just months after the pandemic caused widespread business closures and many people stayed indoors to avoid contagion. increase.

Murphy said Wednesday he would ask the Department of Education to clarify the standards, but defended them as age-appropriate, accusing some lawmakers of attacking them only for political gain. criticized.

Goldfarb and Lieberman call this new standard the best in the country. Their study found that starting comprehensive sex education at an early age lays a strong foundation for “lifelong sexual health.”

They compared sex education to mathematics.Teachers do not expect eighth graders to begin learning algebra if they have not completed lengthy division, fraction, or basic addition and subtraction lessons. They said teaching children about concepts such as identity will help them better apply and understand those topics in the future.

In higher grades, their research found that sex education led to a reduction in domestic violence between partners, among other things. Mental health of LGBT students is also improved when sex education is inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations, they said.

“This lays the groundwork for anti-bullying and anti-harassment and later in life. We’re building the basic building blocks of what’s appropriate for each grade level,” Goldfarb said. say.

opt out

Parents who don’t want their children to learn about certain topics or sex education can opt out, the education ministry said in a statement. A spokesperson said the Department of Education does not mandate a curriculum and that local school districts develop their own lesson plans.

Goldfarb said concerted efforts to combat inclusive education undermine progress made in the LGBT community.

Shepisi has been accused by statewide teachers’ unions of spreading misinformation about the new standard. She pointed out that the documents she shared last week were made public by the Westfield School District as sample lesson plans. Superintendent Westfield said they aren’t lesson plans, but rather “the types of resources available for school districts shared by the New Jersey Department of Education.”

There is no evidence that any New Jersey school district adopted the material Schepisi shared.

Weste, Passaic’s mother, said that even if the documents don’t accurately reflect what the schools are teaching, they show how far the new curriculum will go in the classroom. I said that we should introduce them to subjects such as gender identity and sexual orientation.

She also worries that educators will try to impose their own opinions on young children that go against the ideas of their families. I said.

“Kids don’t know how to sign a check. They shouldn’t be stripped of their basic compulsory education for this sexual orientation and gender class in school. , I know I may teach it later, but you don’t have to incorporate it into every aspect of your studies,” she said.

Researchers say the opposite. Teaching topics such as inclusion and consent increases reports of sexual violence, reduces pre-sex drug and alcohol use, and creates safer, more empathetic interpersonal relationships.

Shepisi said he “politely disagrees” with the researchers.

Bergen County resident Benjamin O., who requested anonymity because of his work, has a son in first grade who will be learning some of these topics in the fall. He agrees with Shields on the impact these topics have on promoting inclusion and supporting at-risk youth.

“I think these are important things in educating our children,” he said. It seems right for

Benjamin has a son who was bullied for his love of pink clothes and unicorns. But Benjamin says his son also liked trucks and dinosaurs and wasn’t bullied at school.

“Children already know and understand gender roles. They are boys, they say they are boys, they think they are boys, and they are still being bullied. “Because of that, getting more education can reduce the harm,” he said. “I think that’s really important.”

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