Sex-ed curriculum controversy inspires bill intended to increase transparency

By: - April 20, 2022 7:10 am

Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) plans to introduce a bill this week to increase transparency around school curriculum in New Jersey. (Photo by Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)

With the furor still in full-swing over New Jersey’s new school standards on health and sex education, one state lawmaker said Tuesday he’ll introduce legislation intended to increase transparency and squash “misinformation and false claims.”

Schools would be required to post all curriculum to district websites two weeks before the start of the school year under a bill Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) said he will introduce this week.

The bill, which Gopal dubbed the “Transparency in Health & Sex Education Curriculum Act,” also would require school officials to give parents a chance to review and ask questions about new health and sex education curriculum before school boards approve it.

Gopal, who chairs the Senate’s Education Committee, said he will post the bill in committee as soon as the Legislature returns from its budget break on May 9.

Parents already are allowed, under a 1980 law, to opt their child out of sex education at school. Gopal’s bill would reiterate that right and require districts to explain online their opt-out process.

State education officials approved the new standards in June 2020, but critics have complained that too few people noticed because all attention was on the pandemic. Districts develop their own curriculum adhering to the new standards, and local school boards then must approve it. Schools are required to implement their new health and sex ed curriculum this fall.

But a hubbub recently erupted after Republican lawmakers shared sample sex education materials they deemed age-inappropriate and over-sexualized.

Gov. Phil Murphy tried to calm fears last week, saying the state will clarify what schools will teach on the topic. Angelica Allen-McMillan, the state’s acting commissioner of the Department of Education, also weighed in.

Gopal blamed the current controversy on “purposely spread misinformation and false claims.”

“This bill will bring full transparency to our health and sex education curriculums in our 600-plus school districts by stopping the politically-coordinated misinformation campaign and further empowering parents by ensuring that their children are offered the opportunity for a comprehensive education, which is what an overwhelming majority of parents want and are entitled to as part of a quality education,” Gopal said in a statement.

A federal lawmaker from the other side of the aisle jumped into the fray this week, urging Murphy to reconsider teaching young elementary students about gender identity and sexual orientation.

New Jersey’s U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-02) said he will introduce federal legislation he’s calling the “My Child, My Choice Act” that would withhold federal funding from schools that include gender identity in instruction and provide gender-neutral bathrooms.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.