East Hanover Superintendent Natalee Bartlett says she’s not “bucking” the new Student Learning Standards on health and physical education, just “loosely interpreting them.”
That’s true. East Hanover schools will indeed comply with the new standards issued by the Murphy Administration‘s Department of Education and approved by the State Board two years ago. Just one detail worth noting: in this Morris County district, all instruction based on the standards will be crammed into the final school day of the 2022-2023 school year because Bartlett believes “parents/guardians should serve as the primary sexuality educators for their children.”
In a statement to East Hanover parents today (courtesy of nj.com), Bartlett explains,”as a district, we have decided that we will incorporate the new standards into one single classroom period (35 minutes) of instruction for grades 2, 5, and 8 at the end of the year. We also understand that children who are in the classes might want to share some information with other children. Therefore, the periods will occur on the last day of school next year (2023) to minimize the sharing of information.”
Further, we also believe that the state is acknowledging its overreach, and has begun distancing itself from some of the new standards. It would not surprise us if many of these topics are altered prior to the new school year. However, as we agree that some topics may be uncomfortable for students, parents and guardians, we want to remind parents/guardians that they have the option of excluding their children from any portion of sexuality education instruction if it is in conflict with conscience, moral, or religious beliefs.
New Jersey school superintendent hardly ever publicly criticize the Governor’s Office; it’s rare enough for them to criticize the DOE (except during a series of DOE blunders during COVID-19 school closures). Bartlett goes further: during class instruction, teachers will only “loosely interpret the standards” and “apply simple and succinct definitions,” with nothing discussed in depth and no instructional material distributed. She reminds parents they can opt their children out on this last day of school and “those students who are not attending will be provided with alternate activities during these instructional periods.”
Is this a case of a single truculent superintendent or the beginning of a trend? We’ll see if any other school leaders take this tack.
Here are the standards in question:
- By the end of grade 2, students should be able to “discuss the range of ways people express their gender and how gender-role stereotypes may limit behavior.”
- By the end of grade 5, students should be able to “explain common human sexual development and the role of hormones (e.g., romantic and sexual feelings, masturbation, mood swings, timing of pubertal onset).
- By the end of grade 8, students should be able to “define vaginal, oral, and anal sex.”