HACKENSACK, NJ – A Hackensack School Board Member has issued an apology after arousing controversy for saying she was disturbed by New Jersey’s new LGBT curriculum requirement.
In several emails to Acting Superintendent Rosemary Marks, Trustee Frances Cogelja expressed her “disgust” over the state law mandating that significant contributions by LGBT persons be included in middle and high school curriculum by the 2020-21 school year.
She also referred to the law as “repugnant” and “incredibly distributing and frankly shocking,” adding that “everywhere I turn, this alternative lifestyle narrative is being shoved done [sic] our children’s throats.”
On Monday, Cogelja apologized for her remarks,saying, “As a mother of two children, one of whom is a seventh grade girl at the middle school, the intention of my email to Acting Superintendent Marks was to explore what my options were as it pertains to a curriculum topic that I feel would require for my husband and I to first discuss at home.”
“I understand now that my remarks can be seen in a different and more troubling light,” she said. “It was never my intention to disparage any person who has a different sexual orientation from my own.”
Cogelja also went on to say, “I am not a career politician, but rather a concerned mother who ran for office last year to improve Hackensack Public Schools. Moving forward, I will consider the impact of my words more carefully. I have learned from my mistake as well.”
The emails were obtained through an Open Public Records Act request and circulated to several news outlets by For Hackensack’s Future, a political campaign group that supported three unsuccesful candidates in April's Board of Education election. The group also launched a petition calling for Cogelja’s resignation.
"The new law is about ensuring proper representation in our curriculum and recognizing the positive contributions of members of the LGBT community to our society. There is nothing ‘disgusting’ or ‘shocking’ about celebrating our diverse history and recognizing underrepresented and marginalized group," the group said.
Rev. Carolyn Davis of The WorkGroup, said “The fact that a sitting Board of Education member wants our schools to be noncompliant with state law, because of her personal feelings, says volumes to every student and staff member in our schools who belongs to an underrepresented group."