MENDHAM TOWNSHIP – A poll this week said a strong majority of New Jersey residents support new sex ed standards in state schools, but not in the lower grades.
The Women’s Republican Club of Morris County waded into this ongoing controversy Thursday night with a panel discussion on the topic.
There was fanfare of sorts before the evening even began. County College of Morris, the county-run community college, was originally listed as a sponsor, but the college pulled out, emphasizing its non-partisan position.
Given the fact, this was a Republican group, the panel – and most of the audience of about 75 – opposed the new standards, which took effect this fall. But that didn’t stifle debate, which shows how nuanced the issue can be.
The NJEA, the state teachers’ union, is normally a villain at conservative gatherings and this one was no exception.
Panelist Greg Quinlan, president of the Center for Garden State Families, didn’t exactly mince words.
He said the NJEA has a “Marxist” and “Socialist” agenda.
One hates to be critical, but given the fact Karl Marx wrote about economics, it was hard to see the connection between him and the topic at hand. Quinlan’s apparent point was that – like the new sex and health standards – the NJEA is outside the mainstream of social values. But not always.
State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, another panelist, said that the NJEA is the strongest public union in New Jersey. As such, it wields much influence with state politicians. Bucco acknowledged the NJEA fulfills its main job – representing its members and advocating its views.
The NJEA certainly leans to the left, but it does endorse some Republicans. For example, it endorsed Bucco in 2021.
What has irritated Republicans recently has been a NJEA television ad criticizing some parents for speaking out at school board meetings. The ad calls them “extremists” and suggests – without actually saying as much – that the critics are a bunch of kooks.
Regardless of conduct, it is undeniable that more people are attending school board meetings and running for board seats. The election, if you forgot. moved a few years ago from April to November.
Bucco said he’s never seen parents so involved in local school board matters.
Additionally, candidates so inclined are getting help and support from local Republicans and other conservative groups.
One problem is that school boards have limited control over state standards. No matter, the consensus was that it is vital to elect conservatives to school boards.
In a perfect world, school board elections would be non-partisan – as they officially remain today. But that seems impossible in these polarized times.
Bucco, however, stressed the need for critics to remain civil. He said it’s the other side that enjoys ridiculing critics. The NJEA ad is evidence of that.
So, Bucco was saying, why give the “other side” ammunition by yelling, screaming and acting out of control at meetings?
That stance was not universally accepted.
Quinlan said the state standards include such things as discussing masturbation in the fifth grade and anal sex in the eighth.
“When it comes to our children … it’s time to go to war,” he said.
Maybe we’ll have a “civil” war.