Democratic Party Leaders Need to Combat – not Appease – Extremism

By Rosalie M. Wong and Louise Walpin
On behalf of SWEEP NJ

NJ Democrats, Progressives, Independents and moderate Republicans expect our Democratic
leaders to help stem the tide of extremist policies taking hold in our state and country. Instead,
Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) responded to the NJ Dept of Education’s vote on Managing for Equality and Equity
in Education by using M4L talking points. Stressing “families having a voice” and “need for age-appropriate subject matter” is coded language. On the surface they sound sane and rational but
are far from it. NJ residents who have attended every school board meeting to advocate for
equity for all children are deeply concerned. We never expected our Democratic leaders to be
spouting rhetoric of M4L, identified as an extremist, anti-government group by the SPLC.

Families always have a voice when it comes to their children. The extreme right is using a false
narrative to frighten parents into thinking that NJ teachers and librarians are creating something
other than a safe, supportive learning environment. Other states have already taken this distrust
to the next level, giving vouchers to parents in order to enroll them in Christian Nationalist
schools. This is the danger of using weaponized words, and why we are so concerned by what
Sen. Scutari and Assm. Coughlin said.

Equality is a nice word but is analogous to giving a band aid to anyone who is bleeding, whether
from a paper cut or a surgical wound. Unfortunately, equity, along with words like diversity and
inclusion have become the latest extremist dog whistles. Managing for Equality and Equity in
Education (NJAC 6A:7) is not new; it was initiated in 2003 and comes up for a readoption vote
every 7 years. It seeks to ensure standards are in accordance with established New Jersey
Laws, including the Law against Discrimination. Removing gendered pronouns creates a safe,
equitable environment for LGBTQIA+ students. Every student with an IEP or 504 Plan is
receiving an equitable education. Equitable school policies help children.

Equity does not change parental rights. Every parent has the right to opt their children out of the
NJ Health/PE Curriculum – Sex Ed Standards or out of reading books they deem inappropriate
for their children. Every parent has the right to determine what is best for their child, NOT what
is best for ALL children. Most parents trust teachers and librarians, who have extensive
education and training, to identify what is age appropriate. We do not want books banned or
programs eliminated in favor of homeschooling, as has been done in some NJ communities.

Commentary prior to the vote focused on fear that equitable policies would take away
resources, as well as debates on the reality of gender identity, a protected class in NJ, and how
this interferes with Christian values. We agree with our esteemed leaders that education should
be “free from any politics” and are thus very confused as to their statement.

Senate President Scutari and Speaker Coughlin say the State Board of Education did not
coordinate with policymakers, yet both voted yes on relevant bills which are now law. These
mandate the Board of Education develop guidelines for school districts regarding transgender
students and provide instruction and material accurately portraying people with disabilities and
those in the LGBTQ+ community. What do they feel is occurring which alters parental rights or
the age-appropriateness of our children’s education? We believe the code as written is
necessary and appropriate to protect our children.

Every politician knows that words hold weight and it’s the weight of Sen Scutari and Speaker
Coughlin’s words that can either help or hurt public education. New Jersey public schools are
some of the top performing schools in the nation. Let’s make sure extremists do not destroy this
legacy. Let’s save our democracy and make school boards sane again.

Louise Walpin and Rosalie Wong 

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13 responses to “Democratic Party Leaders Need to Combat – not Appease – Extremism”

  1. To state that Louise Walpin and Rosalie Wong are members of SWEEP NJ, a left-leaning grassroots government watchdog is an understatement. Left leaning radicals is a better description.
    The InsiderNJ “guest contributors” are not contributing to any real discussions. They are not open to reasonable debate, they are not open to working with those of opposing opinion, they have no interest in reaching any form of agreements.
    InsiderNJ will fail eventually, given the one sided spin and favoritism.

  2. To state that they are “radical” for pushing back against hateful rhetoric, Fascism, and weaponized misinformation that is being pedaled out at Board of Education meetings in an attempt to dismantle the free public education systems in NJ, is in itself “radical” of you, Peter.

    Define “radical” in their behavior and please state why it’s wrong. NJ has excellent public education systems, and what these extremist groups are attempting to do to it is putting our children at a disadvantage in the greater world, as well as lowering the property values of the communities they serve. No one is treading on the rights of parents. Everyone is entitled to a quality public education that prepares them for successful adulthoods in a diverse society, regardless of whether a group like M4L disagrees with the content of what’s being taught. If someone doesn’t like the public school curriculum, they have the right to the options of opting out of a lesson, or private schools/ homeschooling.

    Just like readers like Peter have the option of not reading Insider NJ if it bothers them so much.

  3. These rules are not new and have served New Jersey students and their families well for years. This was a reauthorization vote. Students of all kinds have been positively affected by the existing rules. There is no problem with books, curriculum or family rights that needs to be fixed, as right wing organizations would lead you to believe. Pandering to the culture wars is not needed in New Jersey.

  4. I don’t believe that Peter Z’s characterization of left leaning radical is warranted. There is nothing wrong with expecting our elected officials, who were elected as Democrats under a Democratic platform, to represent that platform. What is radical is the movement to silence educators and shame children who do not fit into your narrow minded views. I expect schools to teach to the standards and give each child what they need. If your child doesn’t need the information then exclude them from the instruction, the library, etc.

  5. I have to agree we can not appease people when they have an agenda . All parents in new Jersey have rights as was stated sex Ed and none of these policies are new. Why all of sudden such backlash ? Is it for us to pay for your child religious education through a voucher ??

  6. Totally agree with this opinion. The fact that our politicians are afraid of culture wars created by religious extremists is exactly why it is important to vote for leaders that have a spine.

  7. SWEEP is happy to have a logical, civilized discussion with anyone willing to do the same. For myself, I see only changes for the better in this updated equity policy. What was said in this Op Ed is right on target; those saying otherwise are a very vocal minority that most people do not agree with.

  8. Peter, is it necessary to attack the authors? It seems like perhaps you’re not so tolerant of opposing opinions. Do we live in America? Are the authors not entitled to share an opinion about elected officials who are elected by the people and are therefore answerable to their constituents? I give them credit for sticking with principles and not just blindly following someone because they are in the same party. It would be nice to see more of that.

  9. It is very rare for the Senate President and Speaker to put out a join press release in opposition to an administration priority.
    I suspect they (and their caucus) see the DOE vote as reinforcing a message that the administration is more concerned on this issue vs a focus on learning loss from the COVID school shutdowns – esp in urban districts.
    In fairness they care less about whose talking points they borrowed and more about prevailing in November.

  10. Those who quote the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as an authority should also read the New Yorker article by Bob Moser on Morris Dees and the SPLC (3-21-2019). Hint: less than flattering.

  11. Sorry folks, but Extremism is in the form of Democrat Communists. They continue to project, gaslight and propagandize that Republicans, the Right, Conservatives, MAGA, are the extremists, when it is they themselves who have committed all the anti-American, seditious extremism.

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