New Jersey’s largest teachers’ union has drawn criticism after airing an ad that appears to call parents who voice their opposition against inappropriate sex and gender indoctrination in schools “extremists.”
Amid the controversy over New Jersey’s sex education standard set to be implemented this fall, the 200,000-member-strong New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) on Monday released a new 15-second ad titled “Same Thing.”
“We don’t agree on everything in New Jersey,” the narrator says as the ad opens with pictures captioned “Pork Roll” and “Taylor Ham,” a reference to New Jerseyans’ long-standing debate over what to call their iconic breakfast sandwich.
“But we all agree that our kids deserve a world-class education,” the narrator continues. “So when extremists start attacking our schools, that’s not who we are.”
The ad at this point shows photos of people protesting at school board meetings, with two news headlines: one report entitled “Some NJ schools under siege,” about concerned parents demanding school libraries to remove books they considered inappropriate for young kids; and the other entitled “‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Introduced By NJ State Senator,” about a proposed bill that would impose restrictions on how New Jersey schools can teach about sex and gender.
One of the photos used in the ad was taken last August at a Clark County, Nevada, school board meeting, where people protested against the school district’s COVID-19 mask mandate before being escorted out by police. Another one depicts a man yelling during a May 2021 meeting in Cherokee County, Georgia, after the school board rescinded a resolution against the teaching of critical race theory.
“People who only want to fight to score political points should take that somewhere else,” the ad concludes.
Republican lawmakers criticized the ad, saying the union is out of touch with the parents’ concerns.
“If protecting our children from [Governor] Phil Murphy’s insane sex ed standards is ‘extreme,’ then we wear this as a badge of honor,” the New Jersey Republican Party wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
State Sen. Ed Durr, a Republican who introduced the bill mentioned in the ad, said it is the union, not parents, that is being extreme.
“It’s another example of the NJEA being out of touch with parents and totally tone deaf to their concerns that sensitive topics such as sex education and gender identity are not appropriate for young kids,” Durr said. “Frankly, the NJEA is taking an extreme position by attacking parents instead of listening to them.”
Durr also pointed out the apparent irony in the “take that somewhere else” narrative, noting the union’s advocacy against school choice programs that allow families to flee low-performing district schools.
The largest and most influential donor to Murphy’s gubernatorial campaigns, the NJEA, has been lobbying the Murphy administration to freeze the expansion of public charter schools. The vast majority of the public charter teaching workforce is not unionized.
Murphy’s Sex Education Mandate
In 2019, Murphy signed a bill into law that would require public schools to incorporate LGBTQ-themed content into their K-5 curricula, making the Garden State the second in the nation to do so after California. Those contents have sparked a new round of debate after Republican state Sen. Holly Schepisi reviewed the recommended lesson plans and made them accessible to the public.
Opponents argue that the sample materials are, among other issues, simply inappropriate for young children. For example, students are expected to define terms such as “sex assigned at birth, gender identity, cisgender, transgender, gender nonbinary and transgender” by the end of 5th grade. Before students begin high school, they are expected to understand vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Teachers are encouraged to tell 2nd graders, “You might feel like you’re a boy even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are ‘girl’ parts. You might feel like you’re a girl even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are ‘boy’ parts. And you might not feel like you’re a boy or a girl, but you’re a little bit of both. No matter how you feel, you’re perfectly normal!”
Facing an uproar against the model curriculum, Murphy insisted that it is age-appropriate. He also accused Republicans in his state of trying to foster division among parents.
“I think shame on the folks who are trying to separate us,” Murphy said.
The NJEA didn’t respond to a request for comment.