A concerned community member provided Parents Defending Education with a document showing the “proposed curriculum plan” for health and physical education classes at Mahwah Township Public Schools. This curriculum involves teaching students in second grade “how gender-role stereotypes may limit behavior.” Students in fifth grade learn to “differentiate between sexual orientation and gender identity” and to “demonstrate ways to promote dignity and respect for all people (e.g., sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, differing ability, immigration status, family configurations).” Under the fifth grade section, the definition of “gender identity” is provided as “a person’s internal, deeply-held knowledge of their own gender.”
Students in the eighth grade learn to “differentiate between gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation” and to “develop a plan for the school to promote dignity and respect for people of all genders, gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations in the school community.” They will also learn the definitions of “gender identity,” “gender expression,” and “sexual orientation.” The definition of “gender identity” for eighth grade students is “a person’s internal, deeply held knowledge of their own gender, regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth.”
Students in eighth grade additionally learn to “define vaginal, oral, and anal sex” and learn to “describe pregnancy testing, the signs of pregnancy, and pregnancy options, including parenting, abortion, and adoption.” Teachers are guided to tell students: “There are other options available to women to medically end a pregnancy and they should speak to their family and medical professionals about these options.” Students in ninth grade additionally learn about “abortion” and to “analyze current social issues affecting perceptions of sexuality, culture, ethnicity, disability status, and make recommendations to address those issues.”
If parents want to opt their children out of this curriculum, they must “write a letter to the building principal sharing what topic(s) of the curriculum you would like your child excused from.” After the principal receives the letter, “the administrator will contact you to confirm your wishes and talk you through which lessons will be replaced.”
The school district has a policy titled “Transgender Students” that was updated in February 2020. The school district explains in the policy that it “shall accept a student’s asserted gender identity; parental consent is not required.” The policy further states that school staff should keep the gender identity of students a secret from parents: “There is no affirmative duty for any school district staff member to notify a student’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of the student’s gender identity or expression.” If parents disagree with a student choosing a preferred gender identity, the district threatens to involve the “Board Attorney” to fight against the parents:
There may be instances where a parent or legal guardian of a minor student disagrees with the student regarding the name and pronoun to be used at school and in the student’s education records. In the event a parent or legal guardian objects to the minor student’s name change request, the Superintendent or designee should consult the Board Attorney regarding the minor student’s civil rights and protections under the NJLAD. School staff members should continue to refer to the student in accordance with the student’s chosen name and pronoun at school and may consider providing resource information regarding family counseling and support services outside of the school district.
Teachers are additionally mandated to use the preferred name and pronouns of students. The policy explains: “A transgender student shall be addressed at school by the name and pronoun chosen by the student, regardless of whether a legal name change or change in official school records has occurred.” The policy further explains that “the Superintendent or designee should ensure training is provided to school staff members on sensitivity and respect towards transgender students.” The policy then states that “all students are entitled to have access to restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities in accordance with their gender identity to allow for involvement in various school programs and activities.”