Home>Campaigns>In cryptic statement, Murphy says LGBTQ education standards should be clarified

Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy attend the Pride Parade hosted by the Rustin Center on Saturday, June 22, 2019. (Photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Governor’s Office).

In cryptic statement, Murphy says LGBTQ education standards should be clarified

Republicans have harshly criticized plans after one district’s sample lessons were released

By Joey Fox, April 13 2022 1:11 pm

As New Jersey Republicans continue to issue condemnations of the state’s public education curriculum, which is set to include some lesson plans on LGBTQ issues, Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement today saying that his administration and the Department of Education will work to clarify state policies.

“I have directed my Department of Education to review the standards and provide further clarification on what age-appropriate guidelines look like for our students,” Murphy said. “My administration is committed to ensuring that all of our students are equipped to lead healthy, productive lives now and in the future.”

The governor previously said in a Monday interview that he was “willing to entertain” changes to the curriculum itself. He added today, however, that he believes in the importance of having LGBTQ-friendly lessons in New Jersey’s schools.

“At a time when we must prioritize student mental health and academic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is paramount that our standards also promote inclusivity and respect for every child, including LGBTQ youth,” he said.

There hasn’t been any recent change to the state curriculum; according to NJ Advance Media, the educational plan that will be put into effect this fall was adopted at a public state board of education meeting in June 2020 with relatively little fanfare. But after a Union County school board shared examples of its sample lesson plans last week, including elementary school lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity, the issue exploded to prominence among New Jersey conservatives.

On Monday, Senate Republicans collectively sent a letter to Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) urging him to convene a special session to delay the implementation of the new standards.

“[Parents] have serious questions about the appropriateness of these new requirements, including, for example, that first and second grade children be taught about gender expression and identity,” Senate Republicans wrote. “We should empower parents, not ignore them.”

The moderate wing of the state party, including State Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), has aligned with this messaging, while some conservative state Republicans have gone much further. State Sen. Ed Durr (R-Swedesboro), for example, has repeatedly tweeted in fierce opposition to the standards and has implied that educators are seeking to indoctrinate or sexualize children.

“I will fight this madness with every ounce of energy I have!” Durr wrote on Saturday. “We do not introduce sexual content to minors! #ParentalRights #ProtectOurChildren #SaveTheKids.”

Murphy’s statement today touched on this criticism, saying that the Union County lesson plans “do not accurately reflect the spirit of the standards” and accusing Republicans of blowing the issue far out of proportion.

“Unfortunately, our learning standards have been intentionally misrepresented by some politicians seeking to divide and score political points,” he said.

This story was updated at 3:33 p.m. with a correction: while Murphy previously said he was open to changes to the policies themselves, his statement today only indicated his administration would work to clarify existing policies.

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