In response to widespread public outcry over gender identity lesson plans that were discovered by parents of first and second graders in New Jersey, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy has softened his initial stance, admitting that some of the materials provided to small children may not have been “age appropriate” but insisting that that these lesson plans represented a mere “handful” of the lesson plans implemented in the state and that they “do not accurately reflect the spirit of the [state’s] standards.”
The controversy originally arose in February when parents of students in Westfield, New Jersey, were alarmed to receive materials at a school board meeting that purported to be reflective of the state’s new gender identity standards for second graders, which include “performance expectations” like discussing “the range of ways people express their gender and how gender role stereotypes may limit behavior.” One lesson plan, which was intended for parents of first grade students, asked first graders to be able to define “gender, gender identity and gender role stereotypes,” and name “at least two things they’ve been taught about gender role stereotypes and how those things may limit people of all genders.”
The lesson plan went on to state, “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!”
Another controversial lesson plan, apparently intended for second graders, instructed teachers to tell 7 and 8-year-old students that “there are some body parts that mostly just girls have and some parts that mostly just boys have. Being a boy or a girl doesn’t have to mean you have those parts, but for most people this is how their bodies are. Most people have a vulva and a vagina or a penis and testicles, but some people’s bodies can be different. Your body is exactly what is right for you.” The lesson plan further included as a goal for second graders that they be able to “identify at least four body parts” from female and male genitalia.
A spokesperson for the district told Fox News that the district did not intend to actually implement those particular lesson plans, but rather that the plans were presented as a “sample list of resources aligned to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards to be considered as school districts work on revisions to the health and PE curriculum.”
Murphy initially dismissed the furor over the leaked lesson plans, claiming that the plans were not new, and pointing out that the standards had been passed in 2020. However, as the controversy over the widely-condemned plans grew, Murphy’s office issued a statement Wednesday, acknowledging that, “we have seen a handful of sample lesson plans being circulated that have not been adopted in our school districts and do not accurately reflect the spirit of the standards,” and conceding that “Any proposed educational content that is not age-appropriate should be immediately revised by local officials.” The statement further indicated that his office was specifically requesting that these lesson plans be discarded and not used by any district in the state.
However, Murphy alleged that “our learning standards have been intentionally misrepresented by some politicians seeking to divide and score political points,” and continued to insist that public school instruction on gender identity was appropriate even for children of such a young age. However, he has acknowledged that parents should have some say in the matter.
Murphy was widely expected to coast to an easy, double-digit re-election in 2021 against virtually-unknown Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, but the New Jersey gubernatorial race stunned observers nationwide when the race was still too close to call as election day ended. Murphy ended up fending off Ciattarell by a bare 3.2 percentage points, as residents of the Garden State vented frustration with the state’s harsh coronavirus restrictions and reticence to reopen public schools by nearly removing Murphy from office.