New Jersey is requiring its K-12 schools that offer separate sex ed classes for boys and girls to divide those classes based on gender identity, not biological sex.
The state's Department of Education on Wednesday passed a series of controversial amendments to its equity requirements, including one that compels schools to separate gender-specific sex ed classes based on a student's chosen gender identity. While schools are allowed to offer combined sex ed classes, the department acknowledges that some lessons on "human sexuality" are "conducted in separate developmentally appropriate sessions." Now, a biological male can attend sessions that pertain to biological females, and vice versa.
The change, which passed by just one vote, marks the latest example of New Jersey's attempts to liberalize public education in the state. Democratic governor Phil Murphy's administration has in recent months sued four districts that require school officials to inform parents when their child displays a change in his or her gender, a policy that Murphy says effectively "'outs' LGBTQ+ students to their parents."
The vote has already generated intense criticism. Local residents who attended Wednesday's meeting threatened to sue the department, while some state board members said the policy fails to protect young girls.
"Why are we protecting transgender kids when it comes to sex ed and dividing up the groups and not protecting girls?" said the board's vice president, Andrew Mulvihill. "Girls are a protected class, right?"
The state board did not return requests for comment about the standards.
This is far from the first time New Jersey has made a controversial change to its sex ed standards. Last year, the state implemented changes to its sex ed curriculum that compel schools to introduce concepts of sex and gender in earlier grades than before. The new standards also include instruction on more mature and explicit sex concepts for older students.
Local school districts have just 60 days to implement equity plans that align with the new state standards. Districts that fail to implement the changes could face sanctions that "may include action to suspend, terminate, or refuse to award continued Federal or State financial assistance." While districts once had 180 days to implement equity changes, New Jersey accelerated that timeframe to "ensure that school districts are not implementing inequitable practices for up to six months."