New sex-education standards that are set to go into effect in New Jersey this year have sparked a nationwide controversy and have even led to a public comment from the state’s Democratic governor, who supports the standards but wants clarification on what children will be taught.
The standards, approved in 2020, are scheduled to be implemented this fall and will expand what students across all grades will learn about several issues, including LGBTQ+ matters.
For example, by the end of grade 2, children should be able to “discuss the range of ways people express their gender and how gender-role stereotypes may limit behavior.”
A state-approved lesson plan and activity for first graders teaches kids that gender identity is how they “feel.” A child can look like a boy on the outside but be a girl on the inside, according to the lesson.
“Gender identity is that feeling of knowing your gender,” the lesson plan, called “Pink Blue Purple,” says in sample dialogue for the teacher. “You might feel like you are a boy, you might feel like you are a girl. You might feel like you’re a boy even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are ‘girl’ parts. You might feel like you’re a girl even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are ‘boy’ parts. And you might not feel like you’re a boy or a girl, but you’re a little bit of both. No matter how you feel, you’re perfectly normal!”
The lesson plan teaches first graders to “define gender, gender identity and gender role stereotypes,” according to its text.
By the end of grade 5, children should be able to “differentiate between sexual orientation and gender identity” and “describe gender-role stereotypes,” according to the new standards.
By the end of grade 8, children should be able to “define vaginal, oral, and anal sex” and “differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.”
By the end of grade 12, students should be “advocate[s]” for “school and community policies and programs” that promote “dignity and respect for people of all genders, gender expressions, gender identities, and sexual orientations.”
Controversy over the new standards grew when state Rep. Holly Schepisi spoke out against them on her Facebook page.
“Today, I reviewed all of the model school instruction materials, and I truly think New Jersey has lost its [expletive] mind,” she wrote.
Schepisi linked to lesson plans she said go “overboard with cringy detail for young kids.” Some of the lesson plans, she wrote, “go so far as unnecessarily sexualizing children further.”
Teachers, she said, are instructed to promote a website and its YouTube channel to children as young as nine that calls porn “something everyone watches.” The video says of porn, “Hey, it’s Free!”
“I encourage all parents to take a look and decide if this is something they deem appropriate for kids this age,” Schepisi wrote.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, defended the new standard this week but said he wants parents to have access to it. He also wants clarification about some of the controversies.
“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,” he said. “My administration is committed to ensuring that all of our students are equipped to lead healthy, productive lives now and in the future.”
Photo courtesy: ©CDC/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.