Hanover Township schools face backlash over LGBTQ+ policies
A New Jersey school district is facing a civil rights complaint from the state attorney general after education representatives voted to institute a “parental notification” policy that the state says could target LGBTQ+ students.
Board Policy 8463, or the policy referred to in a Hanover Township Public Schools letter as “Parental Circumstances,” was voted on at a board meeting Tuesday. Six of the nine board members were present; Four members voted in favor of the policy. There were only two public comments before the vote, one against the policy and one in support.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced in a news release that he is filing a Department of Civil Rights complaint to block the policy, saying the requirement to inform parents of a student’s sexuality or gender identity is discriminatory and a violation of New Jersey law. Against discrimination. The Attorney General and the Division on Civil Rights also filed an emergency court motion requesting a preliminary injunction and temporary injunction to stop the policy from taking effect pending the challenge.
In a letter to the district sent Wednesday, the Board of Education addressed the challenge, saying the attorney general was “misinterpreting” the policy and calling his comments about LGBTQ+ students a “false claim.”
“Policy 8463 does not unlawfully discriminate against any student on the basis of any protected status,” the letter reads. “Rather, a plain reading of Policy 8463 reveals that it requires school staff members to notify the appropriate school administrator and a student’s parent whenever the staff member is made aware of any information or circumstances that have a physical and/or material impact on the student. may affect mental health and/or social/emotional well-being.”
These problems can include substance use, peer pressure, school performance, eating disorders, antisocial behavior, pornography or “engagement in antisocial music,” among others, the letter said. The letter includes “sexual activity; sexuality; sexual orientation; transition; (and) gender identity or expression” that parents need to be informed about.
In the news release, the state attorney general’s office clarified that there are no challenges to parts of the policy that they say do not violate laws against discrimination, such as parental notification requirements regarding substance use, alcohol use, firearms or illegal activities. .
“In New Jersey, we will always work tirelessly to protect our LGBTQ+ youth from discrimination,” Plotkin said on Twitter. “That’s why we’re challenging the Hanover Township Board of Education’s new policy requiring LGBTQ+ students to be staffed by their parents.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy retweeted Platkin’s comments and said he supported the challenge.
“The Hanover Township Board of Education’s new policy requiring staff to “out” LGBTQ students to their parents violates our students’ rights — endangering their well-being and mental health, Murphy wrote.
The Hanover Township Board of Education’s new policy requiring staff to “out” LGBTQ students to their parents violates our students’ rights — endangering their well-being and mental health.
I support @NewJerseyOAG challenging the Board’s policy. https://t.co/7gTKqGc6sr
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) May 17, 2023
Some state leaders praised the policy, with state Senator Joe Panaccio writing on Twitter that the board “should be commended for making a real effort to ensure parents are informed of anything that could affect their children’s mental or physical well-being.”
“The district is absolutely right to try to make sure parents are made aware of any of the dozens of concerns identified by the new policy that could affect their children’s well-being,” said state Senator Edward Durr.
“Parents should never be forced out!” she added.
The New Jersey branch of the American Civil Liberties Union also commented on the challenge, criticizing the policy and saying that informing a student’s parents of their sexual orientation or gender identity without consent “not only invades their privacy, but can push an LGBTQ+ student into depression, Bullying, suicide, violence or even abandonment by family.”
“Enacting a policy that would allow teachers to police their schools to exclude LGBTQ+ students is a disturbing return to tactics used to criminalize sexual orientation and gender identity,” the ACLU said. “It targets students based on their LGBTQ+ status and cannot stand.”
The challenge comes amid the emergence of legislation that advocates say targets the LGBTQ+ community. Several states have banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth, and According to PEN AmericaOf the 1,648 unique book titles banned between July 2021 and June 2022, 41% contained LGBTQ+ characters.