Parents and parent rights groups are outraged at a New Jersey school district over its gender identity curriculum, accusing the district of encouraging students to transition.
Lawrence Township Public Schools adopted a transgender policy for the current school year, like the other 600 counties in New Jersey. Guideline 5756 was originally adopted in 2016 and revised three years later. The district believes the policy is mandated by the state, but a clarification issued in April by the New Jersey Department of Education says the state “does not mandate a curriculum.”
“I’m tired of people hiding behind it [state learning standards] as an excuse to teach this far left agenda, this awakened agenda, this agenda that includes gender theory and all these other things that confuse our kids,” parent Robert Pluta, who raised his kids from the precinct, told FOX News Digital.
Lesson plans, books, and assignments on gender identity are part of the district curriculum.
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“This super woke progressive agenda… it’s so saturated with race and sex. And it’s just like that, can we just go back to teaching? I don’t want a conservative school, I don’t want a liberal school,” Pluta said.
Jacob’s New Dress, a picture book read to kindergarten children by Ian Hoffman and Sarah Hoffman, tells the story of a little boy who enjoys playing dress up and wants to wear a dress to school, even though his classmates tell him he can’t ” wear girls’ clothes. Kindergarteners will also read “My Princess Boy” by Cheryl Kilodavis, which follows a boy who likes “pretty things” and prefers wearing tiaras and “girl’s dresses.”
Second graders read “10,000 Dresses” by Marcus Ewert, which is about a natural boy named Bailey who dreams of wearing extravagant dresses, and “Red” by Michael Hall, a story about how a blue crayon is drawn with a red label faces an identity crisis because the color he identifies on the inside is not what appears on his label.
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And the fifth graders are told the story of “PRIDE: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag” by Rob Sanders. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.
Another parent, who also lives in the district and pulled their children out of the public school system because of a gender identity curriculum, cited a lesson about the “gender snowperson” taught to fourth-grade students who are asked to identify themselves as ” Snowman” and play a game where they can choose their gender.
“My main concern is that they drive social change. The curriculum and the policies are really encouraging, they’re really encouraging kids to consider social transition,” the parent, who asked to remain anonymous, told FOX News Digital.
The parent also explained that there are four steps to gender transition: social transition, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex reassignment. She said the county defended itself by noting that it was not administering puberty blockers or using other sex reassignment medical methods.
“Once you lead the horse to the water, the horse will drink,” she said. “It’s what many parents are so concerned about that they actually encourage it.”
In Lawrence Township, there is a Social Justice unit as part of the Identity/True Self social studies curriculum that is taught to students as early as kindergarten.
Fifth graders in this unit are taught that “One of the first steps that all people—adults or children—take when they feel that their intrinsic sense of gender and their birth-assigned gender do not match is social transition is”.
“This means that adults and children alike live their lives in ways that express their inner sense of who they are — their gender identity,” the unit’s description reads. “A person may use a new name and/or different pronouns than before. Some may change their gender expression – wear different clothes or have a new hairstyle. Students typically want – and have the right – to use facilities or participate in school activities that are appropriate to their gender identity.”
Erika Sanzi, the director of public affairs for the nonprofit parent group Parents Defending Education, told FOX News Digital the curriculum was “completely unsuitable for elementary school students.”
“It’s based on gender ideology and is no different than a teacher who decides to read from the catechism and tell the students that everything in it is true,” she said. “Maybe they could focus on activism-free reading classes instead of indoctrinating 5- and 8-year-olds.”
Other social studies units taught to young school children are ‘skin colour’, ‘bias/prejudice’ and ‘being an ally/protest’.
According to the district’s transgender policy, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination “generally makes it unlawful for schools to treat individuals differently because of their gender identity or gender expression.”
The policy also states that the district “shall accept a student’s claimed gender identity” and that “parental consent is not required.”
“A student does not have to meet any threshold diagnosis or treatment requirements for their gender identity to be recognized and respected by the school district, school or school staff,” the policy reads. “Furthermore, a name change ordered by a court or a court order is not required. There is no express obligation for district officials to inform a student’s parents of the student’s gender identity or gender expression.”
The New Jersey Standards of Learning state that an education authority “must include instruction about the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in an appropriate place in the curriculum of middle school and high school students.” as part of the district’s implementation of state learning standards.
Parents have previously criticized the county’s school board for the gender identity curriculum, including at a school board meeting Oct. 19 where a school board attorney said in his interpretation of the law that parents don’t have the right to determine what is taught in their children’s school.
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The right of parents “is not to dictate what their children are taught, but to dictate where they go,” attorney John Comegno said at the time.
The Garden State does not have a school voucher program that would allow parents to use public funds earmarked for their child’s education to tuition at another school.
“Defenders of the state school monopoly believe they have a right to raise other people’s children however they see fit,” Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow of the American Federation for Children and school choice activist, told FOX News Digital. “It is a deeply flawed philosophical position that most people consider backward. Children do not belong to the government. Parents are best placed to make educational decisions for their own children, and they have the fundamental right to do so.”
“The main problem is that the public school system is a unitary disaster that, by definition, will never meet the needs of every single family,” he added. “Parents disagree about how their children should be raised and educated — and that’s okay. The problem is that special interests dictate how other people’s children are raised in the current system.”
DeAngelis explained that “the only way out of this mess of freedom, not violence, is to fund students directly and empower families to choose the education providers that best meet their needs and align with their values.
“At the same time, the competition will give public schools an incentive to focus on the fundamentals, since most parents want their children to receive an education, as opposed to indoctrination.”
The district is represented by US Democrat Rep. Andy Kim, who defeated Republican challenger Bob Healey in the midterm elections. Healey told FOX News Digital that Kim is “as radical as they come on issues that affect our children and our schools.”
“He supports sex education for preschoolers, biological men who play girls’ sports, and thinks parents who attend school board meetings are ‘extremists’ because they simply care about what their kids are being taught in the classroom,” Healey said.
Kim’s office did not respond to a request for comment from FOX News Digital.
Three Lawrence Township school board members up for re-election — Pepper Evans, Michelle King and Amanda Santos — all won last week against challengers who criticized the district’s board and curriculum.
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“School choice is the only way to really secure parental rights in education. New Jersey public schools were funded at over $24,000 per student in 2020,” DeAngelis said, citing data from the US Census Bureau. “This money should go directly to families so they can find the education providers that best meet their children’s needs.”
Attendees at the Oct. 19 school board meeting also saw a first grade teacher from Lawrence Township wearing a T-shirt that read “Columbus was a murderer.” This happened just after Columbus Day and despite New Jersey having a large Catholic population.
The Lawrence Township Board of Education did not respond to a request for comment from FOX News Digital.