The administration’s top education official Murphy was asked Thursday in Trenton about new learning standards that will include lessons on sex education and gender identity.
It’s a topic that has become hotly debated among New Jersey parents and politicians.
Acting education commissioner Dr Angelica Allen-McMillian said the proposed lesson plans that angered Westfield parents did not come from her department but from an independent organization.
“Material that has been deemed salacious is not affiliated with the Department of Education,” she said.
The controversy comes as districts across the state scramble to create new lesson plans to meet updated health and physical education standards.
“There are families who expect the public school system to meet the needs of all children. And these standards are designed to ensure that we can be responsive and respectful,” Allen-McMillian said.
Some parents and Republicans like Sen. Mike Testa are still angry after seeing that Westfield lesson plans include teaching first graders to define sexual abuse and second graders to identify parts of the genitals male and female.
“Do you think it would be appropriate for someone’s neighbor to show this material to their 8-year-old child?” Testa asked Allen-McMillian.
“When we are looking at going particularly to the lower grades, from kindergarten to grade 2, it is important that we take this opportunity to break some gender stereotypes or norms that may arise, such as all girls should take education classes. art and all boys are good at math. replied Allen-McMillian.
But Testa was not satisfied with this answer and demanded that she answer “yes” or “no”.
“The answer is that I am an expert in education. I’m no expert on neighbors. I can’t talk about that,” Allen-McMillian replied.
That’s when Democratic Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo shut down the sex ed discussion, saying he wanted to focus on the Department of Education budget instead.
“I also don’t want my 5-year-old, or 4-year-old, or 6-year-old, or 7-year-old, or 8-year-old to hear about this stuff from a teacher, okay?” Saarlo said.
Allen-McMillian said she wants parents to be involved in the process of developing new lesson plans.
Governor Phil Murphy said he was prepared to consider changes to the standards if there were “reasonable” concerns from parents.