TRENTON, NJ – When he was mayor last year, Barnegat Committeeman Al Cirulli considered it his job to inform his constituents. Cirulli felt blind-sighted by the enactment of legislation incorporating the contributions of LGBTQ individuals into school curriculums. Subsequently, the then-mayor pledged to fight for the inability of parents to opt their children out of the added studies. Yesterday, he took his battle to the New Jersey State Board of Education.

Thirteen appointed members make up the State Board of Education. They meet monthly and allow the public to provide testimony a few times a year.  At yesterday’s public hearing, Cirulli was one of approximately forty individuals who signed up to speak about the LGBTQ curriculum. The participants were assigned spots in four separate rooms, along with others who spoke on a variety of educational issues.

New Jersey State Board of Education President Kathy Goldberg, as well as board members Jack Fornaro and Mary Elizabeth Gazi, presided over the room in which Cirulli gave testimony. However, the sessions were recorded, and participants advised to provide copies of their presentations for review by other board members.

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Along with Cirulli, fifteen individuals spoke in his room regarding the LGBTQ curriculum mandate. This prompted a statement from Goldberg, who said, “I would like the people in this room to know that this law was enacted by the New Jersey Legislature and falls on school districts to implement.”

“The Legislature did not grant the State Board of Education a policymaking role in this decision,” Goldberg continued. “However, we are happy to hear your comments.”

Cirulli identified himself as both an elected official and an educator with over 33 years of experience. He called the new law an “absolute disgrace.”

“I can tell you that children are not psychologically prepared to deal with this topic,” the Barnegat Committeeman said. “They should be educated in reading, writing, and arithmetic to prepare them in being productive citizens, not social-engineered into persons contrary to what their parents, not the state, want.”

According to Cirulli, nearly all adults have experienced bullying, and integrating the LGBTQ curriculum won’t eradicate it.  “There are laws and educational programs already in place that are utilized to deal with this problem,” shared Cirulli. “To isolate sexual preference as a specifically identified issue is to ignore the many other forms of bullying.”

“At the very least, this bill will promote sexual experimentation characterized by many transient sexual relationships,” continued Cirulli. “This is an outright violation of a parents’ rights on how to bring up their children – especially by not giving them the choice to opt-out.”

In the past, Cirulli has come under fire for calling the LGBTQ movement an “affront to almighty God with the intent of trying to completely eradicate God’s law.”  While his presentation to the State Board of Ed did not reference religion, others who spoke said the mandate was clearly against their faith.

“As a child, I was raised overseas in a country controlled by the right extremists who belonged to the majority religion, of which I was not a part,” shared Marina Kostandy, who identified herself as a concerned parent from Monroe. “They forced their religion and ideology on kids at school.”

Kostandy said that she was forced to memorize and study things against her beliefs, which she said left her confused and oppressed.  When Kostandy came to the United States, she was under the impression that no one would force their ideologies on her.

“Instead of the right extremists back there, I find there are certain groups controlling things here in America,” Kostandy continued. “It’s not just the media, but also the schools trying to infuse the LGBTQ agenda into our kids’ brains. They want to glorify them and make them heroes.”

Natalie Baker, who sits as a new member of the Swedesboro Woolrich Board of Education, spoke in favor of the mandate. “Having a curriculum that includes marginalized groups is best for all students,” Baker, a licensed psychotherapist, said. “The LGBTQ curriculum is about including a group of people that have been excluded from our history books.”

According to Baker, LGBTQ youth are one of the most vulnerable populations and a high percentage of them attempt suicide. “Walking in school hallways, 98% of these students have reported they have heard a slur,” Baker shared. “They also have higher rates of victimization and 42% actually consider dropping out of school.”

“Inclusive curriculum is a proven way to increased feelings of safe schools and less victimization,” continued Baker. “The LGBTQ students report that their classmates are more accepting when the inclusive curriculum exists.”

Baker submitted that uncomfortable adult feelings should not be given more value than the wellbeing of the students in New Jersey. “Teaching about LGBTQ historical contributions is not sex ed,” she insisted. “Lessons help students find words about the people they see every day. No one is too young to learn about love and respect for diverse individuals.”

The LGBTQ inclusive curriculum begins this month for 12 pilot schools in New Jersey. During the 2020-2021 school year, all public schools are required to integrate versions of the additional materials.

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.