Warren, NJ school board fails to adopt health curriculum amid sex-ed uproar
WARREN TOWNSHIP — Another local school board has voted to ignore the state’s updated education standards, as board members deadlocked on whether to approve new curriculum for Health and Physical Education for 2022-2023.
During Monday’s meeting, an attorney for the Warren Township Board of Education ran down potential consequences that the district might face.
“Possible loss of state funding, it could be individuals going after — taking staff members or administrators’ licenses or certificates, it could be corrective action plans, it could be civil liability, it could be ethics charges,” the attorney said, repeating that each board member remained free to vote as they saw fit.
“If it does not pass, I think there is a follow-up question of now what,” Board of Education President David Brezee said, moments before the board voted 4 to 4, rejecting new health and physical education curriculum that had been put together over the summer.
Following the vote, one board member then asked, “Do we take that back to the curriculum committee,” to which another member said “ To do what? You just shot it down.”
Three months earlier, the Garwood Board of Education passed a resolution in favor of rejecting the state's updated education standards, as they apply to health and sex ed for next school year. The action on May 17 followed more than a dozen local residents urging such a rejection during the same meeting.
“We will continue with the existing curriculum,” Warren Township Schools' Superintendent said after Monday's board vote fell short. “I — just as legal counsel pointed out — want to make clear that the board has directed the administration to be out of compliance with state law, whatever the ramifications might be to the board.”
The Warren board meeting drew public comments that varied in perspective — from some unsupportive of the new state standards, other individuals who supported it — and another who said they were “neutral” but had some questions about what was new and what was already being taught in health class, particularly for middle schoolers. A spokesperson for the district said that out of 22 public comments on Monday, it came to 11 in support of the updated curriculum and 11 against.
It also followed months of a social media frenzy, both in Warren and around the state, as community members have dealt with misinformation about what the learning standards actually call for, as compared to a few sample lesson plans created by an out-of-state progressive organization that have been widely shared and mislabeled as the standards.
One of the Warren school board members who voted no on the health curriculum, Daniel Croson, released a personal statement afterward.
“For too long, Trenton’s overreach into our communities has gone unchecked. The state’s extreme sex education standards are just the latest example of their encroachment on what has traditionally been the purview of families.”
Croson was among three school board members who last year voted against a separate revised health education policy to include sexual abuse and assault awareness. That policy still passed on a 5-3 vote.
It was enacted following a state law, signed in 2019 by Gov. Phil Murphy after being passed unanimously by the Legislature. The bill's lead sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, had urged Murphy to sign it quickly.
“Every child should understand how to recognize and report sexual abuse. Teaching kids not to talk to strangers isn’t enough when their abuser could be hiding in plain sight. 93 percent of kids know their attacker. They need age-appropriate safe-touch education,” Bucco previously said.