LITTLE EGG HARBOR – Pinelands Regional School District has been named one of 12 pilot school districts to incorporate the new LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum beginning this month, district officials recently announced.
On January 12, 2020, Pinelands Regional Junior High School Principal Eric Pschorr sent out a letter to district parents announcing the inclusion of the new curriculum for middle school students.
“We are proud to inform you that the Pinelands Regional Junior High, 8th Grade Class, has been selected to be a pilot school in the LGBTQ Inclusive Curriculum Pilot Program from January 2020 through June 2020,” stated Pschorr.
The pilot program is part of the LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Bill, or S-1569. Signed into law on Jan. 31, 2019 by Governor Phil Murphy, S-1569 “requires boards of education to include instruction, and adopt instructional materials, that accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”
“As a pilot school, our teachers, administrators, students, and community members will be provided various forms of support while implementing the curriculum,” continued Pschorr.
The Pinelands District was one of 50 schools to submit an application to the state to be a participant in the pilot program. Of that 50, 12 were chosen including:
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Asbury Park
- Forrestdale School in Rumson
- Haddon Heights Junior-Senior High School
- Highland Park School
- Millburn Middle School
- Newark Arts High School
- Pinelands Regional Junior High School
- Bergen Arts and Science Charter Middle School in Hackensack
- Bergen Arts and Science Charter High School in Hackensack
- Chartertech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point
- Unity Charter School in Morristown
The pilot program will run until the end of the 2019-2020 school year in preparation for implementing the LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum throughout the entire state come the 2020-2021 school year.
In addition to educating the students on LGBTQ topics, Pschorr noted that Pinelands teaching staff will be given access to the new curriculum and be provided instructional coaching while the administration will be provided a leadership coach on school law and best practices for LGBTQ inclusion in the curriculum.
“Our community members will be provided community education programs through our partnership with Garden State Equality and Make It Better for Youth,” he added.
The new curriculum will be held in two classrooms covering all content areas. The pilot program requires that students and staff will complete anonymous surveys on the curriculum as well.
According to Garden State Equality, the statewide advocacy and education organization running the pilot program, the inclusion of LGBTQ curriculum is necessary in NJ schools because it can help decrease bullying, increase student attendance, and allows LGBTQ youth to see themselves reflected in the classroom.
The curriculum will be offered to NJ schools by Garden State Equality at no cost.
“Since we passed the nation’s strongest Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in 2011, building safe schools for LGBTQ youth has been one of the pillars of Garden State Equality’s mission, but we know students still experience victimization and harassment. Fostering an affirming culture that works beyond the letter of the law is critical to developing safe schools, and LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum is the next step to ensuring that,” stated Ashley Chiappano, MS, Safe Schools & Community Education Manager for Garden State Equality.
With this inclusive curriculum, students will be learning about historical figures and members of the LGBTQ community like Babs Siperstein, a transgender equality pioneer, and Marsha P. Johnson, who ignited the Stonewall Riots, both New Jersey natives. Students will also learn about Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in America, and Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King’s closest adviser who organized the March on Washington, to name a few.
New Jersey is the second state in the U.S. to pass legislation requiring schools to teach this inclusive curriculum, following California which passed it in 2011.
For those seeking more information on the implementation of LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum at Pinelands, a community meeting will be held on February 5, 2020 at