New Jersey school board’s lawyer says parents cannot ‘dictate what their children are taught’

A lawyer for a school board in New Jersey gave his interpretation of the law at a recent board meeting, in which he said parents do not have a right to decide the curriculum schools teach to their children.

At a Lawrence Township Board of Education meeting on October 19, lawyer John Comegno said the right of parents “is not to dictate what their children are taught, it is to determine where they attend.”

“In public schools, we have curriculum that is aligned with New Jersey state learning standards,” Comegno said.

“But please know… if your students attend these awesome schools, they’re going to be instructed in this curriculum, which is consistent with state learning standards,” he continued. “That’s not binding. If you choose to have your child attend elsewhere, that’s your right. That’s your right as a parent.”

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FILE - A lawyer for a school board in New Jersey gave his interpretation of the law at a recent board meeting, in which he said that parents do not have a right to decide the curriculum schools teach to their children.

FILE – A lawyer for a school board in New Jersey gave his interpretation of the law at a recent board meeting, in which he said that parents do not have a right to decide the curriculum schools teach to their children.
(iStock)

Comegno’s comments were made following parent criticism of the district’s transgender policy, Policy 5756, which is mandated by state law. The policy was adopted in 2016 and revised three years later.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the district policy states, “generally makes it unlawful for schools to subject individuals to differential treatment based on gender identity or expression.”

The policy also says the district “shall accept a student’s asserted gender identity” and that “parental consent is not required.”

“A student need not meet any threshold diagnosis or treatment requirements to have his or her gender identity recognized and respected by the school district, school, or school staff members,” the policy reads. “In addition, a legal or court-ordered name change is not required. There is no affirmative duty for any school district staff member to notify a student’s parent of the student’s gender identity or expression.”

The New Jersey learning standards state that a board of education “shall include instruction on the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, in an appropriate place in the curriculum of middle school and high school students as part of the district’s implementation” of the state’s learning standards.

Nonprofit parent group Parents Defending Education outreach director Erika Sanzi said Comegno’s remarks are “typical” of how “district bureaucrats think, even though they work for a publicly funded entity that is supposed to serve the public.”

“Parents in this district are objecting to content for very young children that an overwhelming majority of parents oppose, and they are met with condescension and disdain,” Sanzi said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “These districts are happy to shame families out of the district while gleefully holding onto the tax dollars they leave behind. The best remedy is to vote in new board members who will listen to families and tell a guy like this to stand down.”

File photo of New Jersey Gov.  Phil Murphy.  The district's transgender policy, Policy 5756, is mandated by state law.  The policy was adopted in 2016 and revised three years later.

File photo of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. The district’s transgender policy, Policy 5756, is mandated by state law. The policy was adopted in 2016 and revised three years later.
(Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

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During the public comment portion of the BOE meeting, parents slammed the district for encouraging children to question their gender and for the controversial books taught to students as early as kindergarten.

One of the books in question, “Jacob’s New Dress” by Ian Hoffman and Sarah Hoffman, is a picture book read to kindergarteners that features a young boy who likes playing dress-up and wants to wear a dress to school, even as his classmates tell him that he cannot wear “girl” clothes.

A parent alleged that a lesson on the “gender snowperson” is taught to fourth-grade students, who are asked to think of themselves as a “snowperson” and participate in a game where they can be whichever gender they choose, regardless of their biology , according to centraljersey.com.

Comegno responded to parent criticisms by saying the district does not engage in medical or therapeutic treatment and that the board was required to adopt the transgender policy.

File photo so transgender activists protesting.  During the public comment portion of the BOE meeting, parents slammed the district for encouraging children to question their gender and for the controversial books taught to students as early as kindergarten.

File photo so transgender activists protesting. During the public comment portion of the BOE meeting, parents slammed the district for encouraging children to question their gender and for the controversial books taught to students as early as kindergarten.
(AP Photo/Stephen Groves, File)

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“If there is a concern or a criticism about policy or learning standards in the State of New Jersey, you have a right to be heard. Go to the NJDOE, talk to your elected officials – but not here, [school board members] are powerless when it comes to what the NJDOE says is required or not required,” he said.

The more than 600 districts in New Jersey implemented the state’s revised sexual education standards for the 2022-23 school year.

The Lawrence Township Board of Education did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.