So what is in the Murphy Sex Education Standards?
What Happened to Our Public Schools?
Mariesa Grado, MA
In 2020, while the Covid 19 pandemic distracted us, The New Jersey Department of Education quietly released its updated educational standards. These standards are the basis of instruction for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade and are typically updated every 5 years. The Health and Sex Education Standards gained the most attention with goals such as:
By the end of grade 5: all individuals should feel welcome and included regardless of their gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. The performance expectations for students in grade 5 are as follows:
- 2.1.5.PGD.4: Explain common human sexual development and the role of hormones (e.g., romantic and sexual feelings, masturbation, mood swings, timing of pubertal onset).
- 2.1.5.PGD.1: Explain the relationship between sexual intercourse and human reproduction
- 2.1.5.SSH.1: Describe gender-role stereotypes and their potential impact on self and others.
- 2.1.5.SSH.2: Differentiate between sexual orientation and gender identity.
- 2.1.5.SSH.3: Demonstrate ways to promote dignity and respect for all people (e.g. sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, differing ability, immigration status, family configuration).
These are goals that the State of NJ feels are appropriate for children who are 10 and 11 years old. The standards also mandate the following performance expectations for grade 8, or in other words, 12 and 13-year-old children:
- 2.1.8.SSH.2: Develop a plan for the school to promote respect for all genders, gender identities, gender expressions and sexual orientations in the school community.
- 2.1.8.SSH.5: Analyze romantic and sexual relationships.
- 2.1.8.SSH.7: Identify factors that are important in deciding whether and when to engage in sexual behaviors.
- 2.1.8.SSH.8: Identify factors that can affect the ability to give or perceive consent to sexual activity.
- 2.1.8.SSH.9: Define vaginal, oral and anal sex.
- 2.1.8.SSH.11 Develop a plan to eliminate or reduce risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.
- 2.1.8.CHSS.5: Identify medically accurate sources of information about STIs, including HIV, and steps to obtain PrEP and PEP, testing and treatment resources.
The NJDOE 2020 Health and Sex Ed standards are appalling. However, as parents fight to delay or reject the standards for their school district, the elephant in the room is being missed completely. Even more disturbing than the 2020 release of the controversy was the dramatic leap to incorporate Social Emotional Learning and Career Readiness, Life Literacies, and Key Skills (formerly 21st Century Life and Careers) into all subject areas.
If you recall, it wasn’t that long ago that we bought 5 subject notebooks for school. Notice we no longer refer to subjects, and instead, they are called content areas. Group work, “think, pair, share” and other innovative strategies were said to teach “the whole child”. As the idea of “teaching to the whole child” was pushed, the line between the subject being taught, and the strategies used to teach these subjects began to blur. While the goal was to appear more effective, teaching practices quietly crossed over into the realm of Behavioral Sciences.
For all of history, children learned how to interact with one another on their own, and with guidance and direction from their families. Yet sometime over the last ten years, the State of New Jersey has heavily invested in the study of Behavioral Sciences and incorporated them into all aspects of our public schools. Known as, “social and emotional learning”, “mindfulness” and “character development” programs, “teaching” in these areas crosses a dangerous boundary by implying there is a right and wrong position. According to www.learn.org, “Behavioral Science is the study of the interactions between human beings and includes the fields of psychology, anthropology, philosophy, religious studies, and more”- all of which are subjective and are based on an individual’s background, family values, and beliefs.
To “teach” means to “show or instruct how to do something correctly”. It is the job of a public school teacher to do this by presenting concrete, factual information on core content areas. The State of New Jersey does not have reserve the right to dictate how I parent my child in the area of religion, beliefs, morals, values and other personal beliefs, yet N.J.A.C. 6A:8-3.2 directs widespread incorporation of social and emotional learning and other subjective content and N.J.A.C 6A:8-1.1 mandates, “District boards of education shall include interdisciplinary connections throughout the K-12 curriculum.” This means teachers dictate correct mindset, attitudes, and behavior in all aspects of their education, in all lessons, each and every day. It is incredibly bold for the State of NJ to imply authority over such subjective matters, and furthermore, mandate public school teachers to instruct 1.28 million children to mindsets in all areas of their education without prior consent from their parents. Complying with these mandates means a teacher would certainly have to observe and question a child’s beliefs –in other words, survey the child, thereby violating their rights under the Pupil Rights and Privacy Act.
A child’s beliefs, mindsets, and attitudes reflect what they are taught. If they are taught day in and day out in a particular manner, that is what they will believe. If you have ever tried to help your child with their math homework, you have experienced their frustration when you attempt to teach them in a way that differs from the way they are learning it at school. Have you ever been perplexed at hearing your child say something like, “that’s not the way we learned it?” Now apply that same principle to a conversation about belief systems and values. Imagine you are teaching your child a biblical principle and hearing them say, “that’s not the way we learned it.” The power and pressure of groupthink is a psychological strategy.
Even if you agree with the character development program, the principles being taught reflect mindsets and behaviors; both of which are subjective and based upon personal values and beliefs. Given the fact that the State of NJ mandates the implementation of the K-12 curriculum, a teacher is now required to “teach” or, in other words, correct a child’s mindsets and behaviors towards gender, sexual orientation, and other subjective matters.
At best we can assert that a teacher or the state’s authority on these matters is arguable and puts children, families, and educators in uncomfortable positions. At worst, we see teachers being forced to align their practices to teaching children the tenets of secular humanism- a religion recognized by the United States Supreme Court.
Currently, in the State of New Jersey, thousands of children’s civil liberties are being violated by the institutions we trust to educate them on the very same matters. With the NJDOE’s most recent revisions of the New Jersey Learning Standards (NJSLS), “health” is a part of the vision in almost all performance standards. According to N.J.A.C. 6A:8, social and emotional learning (in other words, critical race theory) is mandated throughout all standards. Starkly different from the presentation of concrete facts, social and emotional health is a Behavioral Science, and subjective because the very definition includes matters of family life.
N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.35 makes clear its position on “healthy”, and mandates widespread incorporation of this position, social and emotional learning, and other subjective matters of health and family life in N.J.A.C 6A:8-1.1 which specifically states “District boards of education shall include interdisciplinary connections throughout the K-12 curriculum”.
The irony is that their programs are doing the exact opposite of what they are telling us. The tolerance, celebration of individuality, and differences that these SEL and character development programs aim to promote are the very things being suppressed. A generation is being pressured by state standards and the psychology of groupthink to feel and behave in ways that the government hopes will be profitable in the way of economics, healthcare, and other global affairs. This is clearly stated in the mission and vision of each standard.
Preventing students from exercising their right to freedom of religion does not promote individuality and a culture of respect, it is a violation of First Amendment rights. The standards do not reflect the position of the public as the law states they should. The NJ Department of Education has pushed teachers and administrators to function beyond the scope of their authority through their mandates. Our public schools have become government schools and I will not accept that or ignore the fact that religious freedoms are being violated and parental rights are being stripped in the name of character development, tolerance, and acceptance.
Awareness is paramount, even if you agree with some of the strategies or content being taught in some of these areas. Do not think your child is the exception. There is a great deal of pressure involved in the common desire not to upset the balance of a group of people. When we allow teachers to instruct our children in the areas of social and emotional health, we allow them to suppress our children’s individuality, pressuring them to accept ideas that may not be their own using psychological strategies. This is known as groupthink. Doing so will produce a generation that is expected to believe, feel, and communicate in whatever manner the State of New Jersey feels is best.
This is not about political affiliation. This is not a war against your child’s teacher, principal, or even the school district. The work of an educator is a daunting task and I can tell you firsthand that most teachers and school administrators are always waiting with baited breath for the next thing that the state tells them to do. These public schools are merely responding to directives at the state level.
Our children are a gift. They are in our care and we place them in the care of others for 8 hours a day. The NJ Department of Education has pushed teachers and administrators to function beyond the scope of their authority through their mandates. The standards do not reflect the position of the public as the law states they should. Instead, our school standards and practices reflect positions that the government hopes will be profitable in the way of economics, healthcare, and other global affairs. Our public schools have become government schools and whether you choose to accept them or ignore them, your children’s religious freedoms are being violated and you are being stripped of your right to parent as you see fit.
The Murphy administration, through his Department of Education, is teaching children dangerous behaviors that are a threat to their very lives. This curriculum will affect your children far into the future. It’s time to stop sexualizing our children!
Please give to the work of the Center for Garden State Families. We are your voice in Trenton and Washington DC.