CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Township Committee member Kevin Sullivan and Deputy Mayor Karen Swartz spoke in defense of Chatham parents, citing their rights to question Chatham Board of Education members and the superintendent about what is being taught in the district.

Sullivan and Swartz were the only committee members to speak on the subject at the regular meeting of the Chatham Township Committee held Thursday night, and were referencing the reaction to the Feb. 6 Chatham BOE meeting when middle school parents questioned the board and superintendent about the emphasis on Islam in a 7th grade "World Cultures and Geography" class.

"I do believe that parents have every right, if there is something in school that they're not satisfied with, they have every right to go to the teacher and the department head, the principal and on to the superintendent and the board of education if need be," Sullivan said. "It takes a certain amount of courage to stand up and challenge the school board. When a parent has an issue, they have every right to question. Let the board and superintendent come back and give their answers. I think that in some way this is being portrayed that there is some level of bigotry going on in the Chathams. I don't see it."

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"To be demonized in the community for simply asking is unfair to the person who wants to take an active role in their community," Swartz said. "If you are going to take an active role in participating in our government process and end up with your head on a post on Main Street, who on earth would want to do that. I would encourage people on the receiving end of those questions to be forthcoming as possible with answers, to be gracious in questioning. We like to think we're all being as transparent as we can be."

Chatham Township Deputy Mayor Karen Swartz defends parents who questioned the Chatham BOE