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