TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Starting this month, a dozen Garden State schools will be the first to implement new LGBTQ-focused curriculum, the first state in the country to do so.
Leaders of several New Jersey schools became the students for a day, learning all about the state’s new LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.
“This is about learning what works well and what doesn’t work,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality.
Twelve schools are piloting the new program, the first wave of the statewide law requiring middle and high school students learn about the social, political and economic contributions of all individuals.
“LGBTQ history is American history,” said Ashley Chiappano, safe schools and community education manager of Garden State Equality.
Chiappano worked to help develop 45 new teachable lessons for the classroom.
“If they have a lesson they’ve used in their classrooms and they can integrate LGBTQ topics in that lesson, that’s what we want them to do. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” she said.
For example, when presenting a math problem where two people have to buy six apples plus two oranges, instead of saying a mom and dad go into a store, saying two dads or two moms.
Superintendents came from across the state to learn.
“Supporting our kids who are coming out is not about just supporting kids, it’s about giving everybody the same rights,” said Scott Taylor, superintendent of Highland Park Schools.
Parents in his district look forward to the change.
“It should have been like this before, but I am just very happy they finally are doing it now,” Miriam Lefkowitz said.
“I think we have to teach that everyone is equal in this world and we are accepting of different lifestyles,” Dave Sherman said.
But the new rules come with opposition. Shawn Hyland, the director of advocacy for the conservative Christian organization Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey, started an online petition calling for the right to give parents a way to opt their students out of these lesson plans.
“The agenda is to normalize a lifestyle that many people still believe conflicts with their religious beliefs,” Hyland said.
The sweeping new law will take effect in fall of 2020. Garden State Equality received 50 applications to be a part of the pilot program but could only choose 12.