Many speakers at yesterday’s Bayonne Board of Education meeting voiced their feelings on the school district implementing an LGBTQ history curriculum based on a mandate by Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) administration for all public schools throughout the state.
The bill was signed into law by Murphy on January 31, 2019, which “requires boards of education to include instruction, and adopt instructional materials, that accurately portray political, economic and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
According to the bill, incorporating the history of disabled people and people of the LGBTQ community into social studies curriculum is for the benefit of all Bayonne students.
“Students within these communities will be provided important role models, and students who do not identify as disabled or LGBTQ will benefit from learning tolerance and gaining a broader exposure to important historical figures of diverse backgrounds.”
Nevertheless, there were more speakers voicing opposition to the Bayonne Public Schools District’s intention to adopt the curriculum than those in favor.
The majority of the speakers opposed expressed concerns that teaching an LGBTQ curriculum would somehow legitimize or sanction same sex relationships.
However, those voicing support for the curriculum said that its adoption was not about teaching sex, but rather the contributions of LGBTQ people throughout history.
One resident, while stressing that he respects the LGBTQ community, asked the BOE trustees whether parents can opt their children out of the curriculum.
“I think everything that is being shown to these children is not for everybody, at least give us a chance to opt out, not be mandatory,” said Leo Willis.
“I have nothing against the LGBTQ community. I have a gay sister by the way … and she even tells me that this not the way to go about it, and she’s gay.”
A Bayonne High School student, Marina Ezzat, said she has no hard feelings against anyone who is LGBTQ, but that her religion taught her that marriage is between a man and a woman.
“I just want to start off by saying that I have nothing against anyone who believes in LGBTQ, but me personally, I don’t. I am a Christian, a coptic orthodox Christian. I believe, and was taught in my religion, that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, just like God himself created Adam and Eve for each other in the book of Genesis,” said Ezzat.
Still, Bayonne Teachers Association President Gene Woods said that the curriculum is important to implement because it allows students to value themselves.
“This is why Governor Murphy instituted the curriculum. He looked at the rates of suicide going on, and most of the teens who talked about why they felt like committing suicide was because they did not see themselves valued in school,” said Woods.
Additionally, Bayonne Board of Education President Maria Valado stressed that the board is not taking a vote because the curriculum is a mandate from the state.
“The state of New Jersey has mandated that this curriculum be implemented in all public school districts, therefore, Bayonne Public School District must implement the curriculum for September 2020,” she explained.
Similar concerns were raised during the Jersey City Board of Education meeting on January 30th.