Sex Education in New Jersey Campaign Rhetoric

The Story:

New Jersey will elect a Governor this November. Either it will re-elect the incumbent, Phil Murphy (D) or it will replace him with Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican nominee. The executive director of the Republican State Committee, Tom Szymanski, gave a radio interview earlier this month in which he rather shook up the race by saying that Governor Murphy has “mandated that kindergartners and elementary school students be taught about explicit sex acts.”


The sex education requirements for the state require that eighth graders (not kindergartners!) be able to distinguish between vaginal, oral, and anal sex. This seems to be the closest anyone can find to a nugget of truth in Szymanski’s bald assertion.

The Thing to Know: 

In 2019, Murphy signed a bill requiring that middle school and high school students be taught about the contributions to society of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people.

In 2020, the State Board of Education released student learning standards, which included the above-mentioned explicit reference to sex acts, a reference keyed to eighth graders.

Quite aside from the confusion of kindergartners with eighth graders, State Republicans seem to have conflated those two bills in order to promulgate the idea that Murphy personally “mandated” the sex ed standards that concern them.

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