The following editorial by Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho (R-24) and Senator Holly Schepisi (R-39) on new sex education mandates from Trenton was published by NJ.com on September 1, 2022:
There’s a lot of confusion about new sex education mandates from Trenton and lots of false accusations have been made. Let’s set the record straight.
Up until several months ago, very few people were focused on sex education. That changed this spring when school districts started notifying parents about new learning standards they are required to incorporate into their curricula and teach in classrooms starting this September.
Concerned parents began contacting us almost as soon as they learned what was happening. They didn’t know Democrats had enacted a new diversity law mandating changes to school curricula or that the state Board of Education had adopted the new standards in 2020 during the height of the pandemic when they were busy juggling remote work, unemployment issues and homeschooling their kids.
We heard repeatedly from our constituents that they didn’t have a real opportunity to be part of the process. They felt like they didn’t have a voice. As elected legislators, we understood our obligation to represent their interests, so we quickly got to work.
Based on the concerns we heard, we introduced our “Three Rs” plan. In addition to fighting to repeal the new mandates, we proposed a number of legislative fixes, and are considering more, such as requiring parents to opt-in to sex education, rather than simply giving them an opportunity to opt out that they might miss.
Unfortunately, the Democrats who control the Legislature have refused to act on any of our proposals.
Some, including the Star-Ledger editorial board, have falsely claimed that we only care about sex education because “it’s a political winner.” Responding to the concerns of the constituents who elected us is called representative democracy. It’s how government is supposed to work.
We listened to our constituents and we were drafted into this fight. Our only goal is to empower parents and help protect their children. That’s it.
As part of our continuing effort to bring awareness to this unresolved issue, Senate Republicans held an independent hearing recently to discuss sex education, state curriculum mandates and parental rights. We had an extremely informative discussion with school board members, child health experts, and parents who shared their concerns that the new mandates from Trenton are inappropriate for young kids.
School board members, including Sal Piarulli of the Garwood Board of Education and Andrew Choffo from the Parsippany Board of Education, told us how they are being threatened with removal or loss of funds by the Murphy administration if they don’t incorporate into their curricula lessons on gender identity, masturbation, and oral, anal and vaginal sex.
Irene Ericksen, a nationally noted researcher who advised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the effectiveness of sex education programs, debunked the unproven and too often unchallenged claims that it’s beneficial to teach these controversial topics, what proponents call “Comprehensive Sex Education,” at young ages.
Meg Meeker, a pediatrician who is a nationally recognized author and expert on the sexualization of children, explained how kids don’t have the cognitive capacity to understand the concepts required by the new mandates and can suffer lifelong harm from being exposed at too young of an age.
Finally, we heard from parents who are sick and tired of being bullied and shamed for caring about what their kids are taught in school.
There is nothing “extremist” about questioning government mandates, yet that’s what parents are labeled in a new ad by the NJEA. After a backlash, the union is now denying that the ad means what it clearly says, gaslighting parents once again.
Parents told us their concerns were not just about sex education classes, but also about the new diversity law that requires that these controversial and potentially age-inappropriate topics be incorporated into lesson plans in other subjects, including English.
While state law allows parents to “opt out” of sex education lessons in health class, the parents noted, correctly, that they can’t opt out of related lessons in the other subjects where they must be taught.
Sadly, many in the press don’t seem to understand or refuse to acknowledge this distinction when they write that parents or Republican legislators are uninformed about the ability to opt out, which is not unlimited.
Almost immediately after our hearing was over, Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth), chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a sponsor of the controversial curriculum bill, blasted our efforts and said the entire issue is “manufactured outrage,” which is both false and insulting to parents with legitimate concerns.
While Senator Gopal may disagree, these parents deserved to be heard. School board members deserved the opportunity to tell us how they are being threatened by Trenton.
And we all deserved the chance to hear informed viewpoints from experts who believe there are better, safer alternatives to “Comprehensive Sex Education,” which national progressive groups want us to believe is the only option.
Strangely, Gopal also blamed Republicans for “blocking” a bill he sponsors that, in part, reaffirms that school districts must teach the new learning standards mandated by the State Board of Education, the exact opposite of what parents say they want.
While we certainly don’t support his bill, there is no filibuster in the New Jersey Legislature. Democrats could easily pass it with their majorities in both houses of the Legislature. It’s Gopal’s fellow Democrats who haven’t scheduled final votes. Maybe he should ask them why.
When Chairman Gopal rammed his tone-deaf legislation through the Senate Education Committee in May, he refused to listen to parents who repeatedly told him they wanted the new mandates repealed, not reaffirmed, as his bill would accomplish.
If Chairman Gopal would hold a hearing, as we have, where he actually listened rather than lectured, he might learn that parents aren’t the enemy. We are certain he would get a much friendlier response in his committee if he allowed our “Three Rs” plan to be considered, which includes the solutions parents actually want.
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