Garden State Equality and Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to Test-Pilot LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum in Fall 2019
Hackensack, NJ — Garden State Equality and Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) are proud to announce that BASCS will be one of roughly a dozen New Jersey public schools that will test-pilot an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum this fall.
Last month, a student-created mural, created as part of a BASCS art project and intended to express LGBTQ pride, caught Garden State Equality’s eye and garnered national attention when the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church of Hackensack, asked that the mural to be removed. As a result, representatives of Garden State Equality met with BASCS students, educators, and administrators last week for a “restorative practice dialogue.” The dialogue aired the issues and concluded with a commitment by BASCS to take several constructive actions, including its implementation of an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum next school year, a year before New Jersey’s law requiring such curriculum goes into effect.
“New Jersey public charter schools often have no other facilities option besides locating their schools in former parochial school buildings, and we are committed to working together with public charter schools to help them navigate these matters in a way that supports all of their students. Garden State Equality’s top priority is ensuring that LGBTQ students feel safe, affirmed, and supported, and to the school’s credit, the administration unequivocally embraced the positive and constructive solutions proposed by students and educators during our dialogue,” said Ashley Chiappano, Safe Schools & Community Education Manager for Garden State Equality. “We are proud to partner with Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to roll out our LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum test-pilot program later this year to ensure the political, social, and economic contributions of LGBTQ people are represented in classrooms.”
For its part, BASCS “is happy to participate in the test-pilot program and to be a leader in developing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum” said the school’s Lead Person, Nihat Guvercin. He added, “BASCS is committed to affirming LGBTQ student voices and successfully implementing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. For years, BASCS has successfully operated its school in a church building, complying with the requirements of its lease while also respecting the rights of its students. BASCS and the entire iLearn Schools network have proactively built school environments that uplift and give voice to diversity. The curriculum test-pilot will be an opportunity for us to become a leader in this work, to create a model for other public schools. We’re proud to participate with Garden State Equality to do that.”
“I am so happy real initiatives will be taking place at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to affirm LGBTQ students, and I will be doing everything in my power to work with my peers, educators, and the administration to ensure our goals are implemented with a fair outcome,” said Breanna, a sixteen year old junior at BASCS who painted the mural. She will be a senior at BASCS when school resumes in the fall. “There is still so much work to do on behalf of LGBTQ youth and students, and by building a safe and inclusive environment at our school, I am optimistic that no other student will ever have to go through a similar experience again.”
Breanna has been offered—and accepted—a summer internship with Garden State Equality for its Teach & Affirm program, which works to build safe schools for LGBTQ students across New Jersey.
In addition to the school’s participation in the test-pilot curriculum program, BASCS and Garden State Equality agreed to other deliverables:
- They will reconvene in the fall of 2019 and extend an invitation to the Archdiocese of Newark and the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church of Hackensack to participate. Conversations will continue through the summer. The school has agreed to foster communication between administration, faculty, and students on issues related to speech and inclusivity.
- In August, when teachers return to school, Garden State Equality will provide professional development training to BASCS faculty on LGBTQ issues and cultural competency and the newly adopted New Jersey state law requiring the LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum, which will go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year for all New Jersey public schools, including public charter schools, as well as the Law Against Discrimination, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, and the Department of Education’s transgender student guidance.
The LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum law passed the New Jersey State Legislature last year and was signed by Governor Phil Murphy on January 31, 2019. New Jersey was the second state in the nation to pass an LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum law and the first state in the nation to pass a curriculum law to reach beyond social studies and incorporate LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum as an interdisciplinary approach across all relevant subjects.
The New Jersey Department of Education will issue broad guidelines before the law’s implementation, but ultimately, local school boards are charged with developing and implementing the curriculum—a costly and burdensome task. Following the test-pilot program Garden State Equality’s curriculum will be offered to local school boards and districts at no cost. “Curriculum coaches” will be available to schools as well.
Governor Phil Murphy acknowledged Garden State Equality’s proactive work to create LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum during his speech at Garden State Equality’s Equality Ball on Friday, May 31, and Garden State Equality is in discussions with New Jersey’s Department of Education to partner on developing state guidelines. “I applaud Garden State Equality for not only leading this effort, but for your continued work in helping to craft this curriculum,” said Governor Phil Murphy at Garden State Equality’s Equality Ball.
Garden State Equality is partnering with Make It Better for Youth (www.makeitbetter4youth.org) to develop robust LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum that New Jersey public schools can implement. Garden State Equality will receive $185,000 in grant funding from the Braitmayer Foundation and PSEG Foundation over the next two years to develop LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and hire curriculum writers, for which job postings were made available on Monday, June 3 (www.gardenstateequality.org/employment). Garden State Equality will be test-piloting this curriculum in roughly a dozen New Jersey public schools for the 2019-2020 school year. The schools will represent geographic, economic, and racial diversity across New Jersey. Garden State Equality is finalizing a partnership with a New Jersey public university to conduct IRB-approved student and faculty surveys that will take place at the beginning and conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year to measure the efficacy of the curriculum as it relates to improving schools’ LGBTQ-affirming culture and climate. Additionally, Garden State Equality will be providing “curriculum coaches” at no cost to each individual test-pilot school to train and educate schools’ educators on how to effectively and successfully implement the curriculum.
As more states look to New Jersey for ideas on how to innovative on LGBTQ equality through policy and programs, Garden State Equality intends to provide its curriculum to other states that implement similar laws.