NEW JERSEY - On January 31st, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that mandates all school districts in the state to include instruction and curriculum materials that will teach middle and high school students about the political, economic, and social contributions of LGBT people and individuals with disabilities.

This past November at the annual NJEA Convention, TAPintoTV spoke with Carol Watchler, from the Central New Jersey chapter of GLSEN about the legislation and the need for all students to feel included in their school’s curriculum.

GLSEN is the national organization working to create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. “We still find that students are harmed by the language that they hear other people using and the names that they actually get called,” said Watchler. “We know that we need to help schools create an atmosphere that accepts and welcomes and respects.”

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Studies have shown that introducing inclusive and accurate information about LGBT people is linked to greater student safety, lower rates of bullying, and reduced prejudice towards members and allies of these groups. New Jersey is now the second state, after California, to require schools to adopt an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.

“It’s also so important for persons who are part of a marginalized group to be able to hear what there is being presented in class and know that it mirrors their experience,” said Watchler. “All of our students need to be aware and knowledgeable,” she said, “so that they can be respectful of everyone, no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation.”