SUMMIT, NJ - The controversy regarding the use of human growth and development materials in fourth and fifth grade classrooms in the Summit public schools continues. At Thursday night's Summit Board of Education meeting residents of Summit expressed their opinions about this heated topic.
According to a letter that was posted on the Board's website on May 27th, the Summit Board of Education had decided to make these materials available to fourth and fifth grade students. They also decided to work with Planned Parenthood of Northern New Jersey (PPNNJ) in creating a sexual education class curriculum for these same students.
Based on the school nursing staff's opinion, the curriculum is factual and free of bias and the materials are the best available, and the Board agreed.
"The Board was unanimous in its support to use the materials," said Board of Education President Jack Lyness.
Because of concerns raised over this issue, the Board decided to take precautionary measures. Only the school nurses will be teaching the sexual education classes, and no PPNNJ representatives will be present. The materials, although received from'Planned Parenthood, will not have any references to PPNNJ whatsoever, and parents have an option to excuse their children from class if need be.
Once the public had an opportunity to speak openly about this topic, many individuals chose to let their voices be heard, although Lyness made it clear that the case was closed and that he would not argue the topic any longer.
"There is a policy that states [there is to be] no political influence in the school," said resident James Freeman, "this seems to be out[side] of [the schools'] charter."
Because of the public nature of Planned Parenthood, many people had concerns with the actual name of PPNNJ being released to students. The Board quickly reminded them that Planned Parenthood's name would not be used in the curriculum or provided to the students.
One concerned mother explained that she had heard a fourth-grade child ask questions such as, "I think it's weird that moms marry moms," and, "the teacher told us that babies are made by having sex."
These statements, along with other sexual comments reportedly heard by fourth-grade students, contributed to the public discourse. "We are here to do our honest best with the Board to urge children to do their best to protect their innocence," said resident Joy Calabrese.
Some residents raised concern that the classes are co-ed, which could lead to an awkward, uncomfortable feeling in the classroom between girls and boys.
The apparent root cause of the residents' angst seemed to be that PPNJ was the source of the materials and curriculum.
Other residents spoke in favor. There were members of the audience who were proud to simply state their approval of the materials.
Since the issue had already been voted upon by the Board, the only option the opposition has is to eventually appeal the issue. More information will be provided about this possibility at a later date.
On a lighter note, the Board also took the time to recognize 12 retiring employees of the Summit school system. Each retiree was brought to the podium as a colleague presented a two minute speech or PowerPoint about their impact on Summit.
Although each retiree had their own proper goodbye, a universal theme was that they had all ultimately made Summit a better place.