WARETOWN, NJ – Social media can’t make the same claims as Las Vegas. What happens on Facebook doesn’t necessarily stay there. At last night’s Ocean Township Board of Education meeting, Board Member Kelly Zuzic saw that firsthand.
During the Public Comments section of the meeting, Waretown resident, Amanda Lynn, read a prepared statement. She began by referencing remarks made by Barnegat Mayor Al Cirulli regarding the passage of Senate Bill 1569. The new law requires public schools to include instructions on contributions made by individuals from the LGBTQ community.
“In his statement, Cirulli made statements such as “politicians have no right to promote the LGBTQ agenda with laws intended to destroy religious freedom,” said Lynn.
The speaker, who subsequently identified herself as a former educator, further quoted the Barnegat mayor as saying that the proposed curriculum change is “an affront to Almighty God with the intent of trying to completely eradicate God’s law” and that law “crosses over a line into absurdity.”
Lynn expressed her concerns regarding comments Ocean Township Board Member Kelly Zuzic made on a Facebook page regarding a TAPintoBarnegatWaretown news article. Zuzic wrote “He’s right. This has NOTHING to do with history which young people are completely ignorant of.”
TAPinto was supplied with a printout of the Board of Education member’s post in context. An independent search shows the comments above Ms. Zuzic’s but not the ones made by the Board of Education member.
“Mr. Cirulli’s statements were offensive to a segment of his constituency,” said Lynn. “By agreeing with them, Ms. Zuzic is saying that there are members of this school community that are not valued because of their disability or LGBT status.”
Lynn found Cirulli’s statements “steeped in religious fanaticism” and suggested that Board members who agreed showed evidence of religious bias. “This could result in the exclusion of relevant and important pieces in the new curriculum,” she said.
In directly referencing to Zuzic’s comments, Lynn asked, “If students are indeed ignorant of history, shouldn’t we be striving, as educators, to introduce them to even more knowledge, creating a more well-rounded and informed student?”
“It is disheartening when one of the Board goals is social and emotional learning to see those statements in public,” continued the Waretown resident. “It does directly impact my family. I take offense to that statement.”
Zuzic voiced her agreement when Lynn finished her comments. “It really wasn’t meant to...” she began.
The Board member didn’t complete her sentence but instead went on to say that the Barnegat mayor has a right to an opinion. “I think what happens is we see that if certain people don’t have an opinion that follows a political agenda, everyone attacks them,” she said.
“We at the Waretown School, follow a curriculum to make sure that our students know about history. Many of them don’t,”she suggested. “They know one type of history. And, that’s the history of the political agenda – whatever that may be at the time.”
Zuzic acknowledged that no one has to agree about the proposed curriculum, but that it would be implemented because it’s a law. “I think it’s very disheartening when we say we have to include everybody,” she continued. That’s what I think is wrong. That is why Cirulli was right in his opinion."
“Nothing was said mocking anybody,” said Zuzic. “I have people in my own family that are part of the LGBT community.”
The Ocean Township School District in Ocean County only provides public education for students through the sixth grade. Subsequently, the District allocates tuition costs to Southern Regional School District for its middle school and high school students.
Although some consider sixth grade to constitute middle school education, the new law does not break down into specific grade levels. The Ocean Township School District Superintendent’s office says the district provides elementary school education.
Board of Education President Shawn Denning, Jr. shared his thoughts on the new law set to take effect in the 2020-2021 school year. “It doesn’t particularly affect our district,” he said. “We would obviously support following the law and being respectful of all regardless of their beliefs.”
Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.