EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The East Brunswick Public Schools posted the following comment this afternoon regarding a flyer that has been circulating online and within the township: "The District was made aware of a flyer advertising a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Superintendent Dr. Victor Valeski.The flyer is not sanctioned by the District and the District is not hosting a Town Hall Meeting on the Inclusive Curriculum Law."
According to a source connected to the East Brunswick Board of Education, a group approached Dr. Valeski and asked for a meeting regarding the curriculum and how some of its implementation would impact the schools. At the East Brunswick Board of Education Reorganization meeting on January 2, East Brunswick resident and parent Emad Botros spoke about his view that the new law was "violating his rights as a parent of a student in a multinational community."
BOE President Vicki Becker reminded those in attendance that the new curriculum was a state mandate with which the district was required to comply. In an interview, Becker stated, "As elected public officials, our opinions about a state mandate are irrelevant."
Following comments from the floor, Valeski agreed to meet with a group of residents who shared Botros's concerns about the impact of the new curriculum.
The request then grew into a demand for a "town hall" type event, and the large meeting was not scheduled.
"I have no idea who issued or approved of this flyer. It was created without my authority and my name was used without my permission," said the Superintendent in an interview with TAPinto East Brunswick.
The flyer described a meeting that was to take place at the Hammarskjold JMPAC on Tuesday night. Though no specific group claimed responsibility for the flyer, "The Egyptian community's concerns" were to have been the focus of the meeting. Those concerns included the following items: the transgender bathroom rule; the new LGBTQ curriculum; and the pro-LGBTQ mural that is painted on a wall at EBHS."
Addressing the elements of the flyer, Valeski said that there are no situations where males and females share the same bathrooms in the East Brunswick Schools Accommodations have been made for students who identify as transgender. Valeski plans to visit EBHS to consider the wall artwork that was mentioned.
Egyptians of all ages were invited to attend, whether or not they were East Brunswick residents. The main idea was to draw a large crowd, according to the flyer. There was no mention of the meeting on the flyer on the website or Facebook page for St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in the township. When contacted by Valeski, church spokespeople claimed no responsibility for the flyer or the proposed town hall.
With regard to the curriculum, Valeski said that neither East Brunswick nor Middlesex County has received any additional guidance as of last Friday. "There is no defined curriculum," said Valeski. "When we see the model lessons, we will align those materials with what we already have in place in the East Brunswick Schools. We have always had an inclusive curriculum. This law is not asking us to do anything that we are not already doing currently."
The Inclusive Curriculum Law (here is the full text) was passed last year and will go into effect in 2020/21. The law, which was co-sponsored by District 18 Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin of East Brunswick, states, "A board of education shall adopt inclusive instructional materials that portray the cultural and economic diversity of society including the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, where appropriate."
The law has been popular among LGBTQ and disabilities groups who see it as an extension of the state's anti-bullying initiatives. It has also drawn fire from some religious groups as it it is perceived as imposing parents' civil rights. Currently, 12 schools are "piloting" the new curriculum with an initial package of 45 lessons. Locally, these districts include Highland Park and Asbury Park, according to NJ101.5.com.
The next official East Brunswick Board of Education will be held on Thursday, January 23 at 7:00 pm at the Board office.