Middletown, NJ, schools challenge state over sex education
The Middletown School District will take an opt-in approach to teaching sex ed classes in the fall.
It’s a policy that appears to be a direct challenge to the Murphy administration’s guidance on controversial new standards.
While many districts say they will offer the ability to remove children from sex ed classes, in Middletown children will not be allowed to attend classes unless a parent or guardian specifically authorizes and proactively.
The Middletown Board of Education is expected to approve the new standards later this month and will then hold a series of parent information sessions that will include a question and answer period.
School officials say they are confident the new policy will satisfy parents’ concerns.
Jessica Alfone, the program’s assistant superintendent, told Patch that their goal was complete transparency.
“Our goal is to ensure that our parents/families are comfortable and confident in the content being covered,” Alfone said, “but will also have the ultimate decision-making ability to determine what is best for (their) child.”
By telegraphing how they intend to approach the new sex education standards, the district invites review by the New Jersey Department of Education.
If the DOE decides that the opt-in approach violates state education policy on this issue, the district could be punished, including the loss of state assistance.
When State Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, suggested the new program standards should serve more as a “guideline,” the DOE was stern in its response and warned that any district that does not strictly comply could face penalties.
New standards require children to learn (at different grade levels), gender diversity, sexual feelings, masturbation, definitions of vaginal, oral and anal sex. Many parents have expressed concerns about the age appropriateness of the new standards.
In Middletown, the district is betting the Murphy administration won’t challenge their approach.
Alfone says their policy will be “consistent with state standards, but also fully age-appropriate for our students at each grade level.”
Eric Scott is the senior policy director and anchor of New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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