A group of New Jersey Senate Republicans held what was billed as an independent virtual hearing Tuesday on Facebook to address the issues of sex education, state curriculum mandates and parental rights in Garden State schools.

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, opened the hearing by stating he believes we have seen a sexual indoctrination of children in New Jersey as young as 4 and 5.

He said Republican concerns about what is being taught in schools and parental rights have basically been ignored, and “that includes when and where it is appropriate to expose children to the spectrum of issues on sexuality."

Sen. Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, said during the hearing there continues to be confusion about what schools are required to teach children about sexual topics in different grades, and school districts have been attempting to figure out how to apply the new state standards when schools open in the fall.

“A lot of parents are just wanting transparency, understanding as to what’s being taught, how it’s being taught, as well as what their options are as parents,” she said.

School kids sitting on cushions and studying over books in a library
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The Department of Ed takes a stand

New Jersey education officials have recently stressed state education standards are considered separately by each school district during the crafting of the year’s lesson plans, and they are then approved by each respective school board before being used in schools.

A recent analysis by New Jersey 101.5 News found different school districts around the state are holding meetings and doing presentations with parents to explain exactly what will be taught to children in different grades.

All public school families are allowed to pull their kids out of any sex education or gender identity class they do not feel comfortable with.

Schepisi said parents are also concerned about the notion that somehow “schools should supplement or replace parents and parents should no longer have rights when it comes to their children’s education.”

What books are they using?

Schepisi said another area of concern is which books are being approved for kids to be using in school.

“Some of the books that are being put forth are very sexually explicit in passages and texts and a whole host of things that are not appropriate for an 11- or 12-year-old,” she said.

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Sex ed for younger kids poses a danger

Invited guests at the virtual hearing included school board members, parents, educators and physicians.

Pediatrician Dr. Meg Meeker told the panel when children in elementary school are introduced to sexual concepts they don’t understand it is confusing and psychologically damaging for them.

Meeker said teaching children about sexuality, gender identity and sexual activity at an early age can traumatize them, and introducing these ideas can pose a medical danger.

“If you start having sexual activity eighth grade, ninth grade or 10th grade and you contract HIV, that is going to affect you for the rest of your life."

She said if you start talking about sexuality to fourth and fifth graders, “they don’t have the ability to figure it out."

Dr. Meeker stressed, “if you teach eighth graders that oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex are on the table, then what you’re saying is those are okay options and they’re very, very dangerous.”

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Who is in control of what the school teaches

New Jersey Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan has stated “it is the responsibility of each local district board of education – through meaningful, ongoing, and direct consultation with families – to select, adopt, and implement curricula that reflect both the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and the priorities and values of the school community.”

She also stressed it is the districts “that develop or select curriculum materials, based on their local curriculum development and review process. The Department does not review, approve, or actively endorse instructional materials.”

Parents who testified at the event complained about the “tentacles of Trenton” reaching everywhere, and expressed a desire for schools to communicate with parents in a clear and easy to understand way about what their children will be taught in school.

State Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Passaic, said many parents are worried and confused about the Education Department directives.

“Bureaucrats believe they know what is best for everyone and I think we can all agree that every child is different. Education should never be one size fits all,” she said.

She added “we need to be extremely cautious about what we are teaching 5, 6 and 7 year olds, and the words we hear over and over again from parents are they want an age appropriate curriculum.”

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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