Judge: New Jersey School Violated Law by Asking Students About Gender Identity

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 31: Pupils at Rosshall Academy wear face coverings as it becomes mandatory in corridors and communal areas on August 31, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. New rules starting today require children over 12 to wear face coverings in corridors and other communal areas in schools in Scotland. …
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Parents in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, won a legal battle against their school district after challenging an equity survey that asked students as young as nine years old about their sexual identities and behaviors.

“The appropriate remedy is to discard the surveys and all results derived therefrom,” administrative Judge Gail Cookson said in her November 15 decision, explaining the survey as present was neither voluntary, nor did it give parents the opportunity to opt their child out, according to NJ.com.

The initial complaint against the Cedar Grove Schools’ “Community Needs Assessment” — designed by the district’s Equity and Diversity Advisory Council — was filed with the state Department of Education in July.

The survey of roughly eight questions “asked students to anonymously share their race/ethnicity, gender identity, and opinion on several topics — which varied by grade level,” according to NJ.com, that would ostensibly be used to “explore previous and present bias to provide tangible solutions for all stakeholders,” per the district’s summary.

“The District intended to and did actually seek answers from students, who were not told it was voluntary but only anonymous…on the subjects of gender identity, gender discrimination, and for the older students, religion and religious discrimination, and family demographics,” Cookson wrote.

Cookson’s decision that the school board and superintendent violated the law was upheld this month.

The Cedar Grove education officials told NJ Advance Media they “will take this ruling as advisement and guidance on how to move forward as we reflect on our past practice and continue our pursuit for equity, diversity and inclusion for all children.”

In his reasoning for upholding Cookson’s decision, Assistant Commissioner of Education Kevin Dehmer said that “asking students to identify their race and ethnicity on a survey distributed in elementary school classrooms” improperly “invited students to reveal information that might include their sexual behaviors and attitudes.”

Regardless, Cedar Grove mother and petitioner Patricia Montana told the outlet, “Now parents are anxious about every decision that the district makes because they don’t have faith that they’re going to follow the law.”

Parents in the district have other demands as well, including for the school board to issue an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and the removal of members of the Equity and Diversity Advisory Council who were involved with the survey.

“The Assistant Commissioner recognizes and commends the Board’s efforts to explore and address diversity, inclusion, and equity in its schools. However, those efforts cannot outweigh statutory requirements regarding the administration of surveys to students,” Dehmer concluded.

Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.

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