Last month, you may have heard that a student’s LGBTQ pride mural was painted over at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) after the school’s landlord, a Catholic church, urged the school to remove it.
Garden State Equality immediately took action to ensure LGBTQ student voices were affirmed and that our LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum law would be protected when it goes into effect in the fall of 2020, and on Friday last week, I met with administrators, educators, and students at the school and facilitated a restorative practice dialogue. As a group, we collaboratively developed several constructive solutions to ensure those goals.
The school will be taking several actions, but most significantly, I’m proud to tell you that BASCS will be one of roughly a dozen schools where Garden State Equality will be test-piloting LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, which we are actively developing, a year before the law goes into effect.
I’d also like to say thank you to Breanna and Mila, the students who painted the mural, for speaking out against this injustice and creating real, lasting change for their school.
One of Garden State Equality’s top priorities is ensuring that LGBTQ students feel safe, affirmed, and supported, and to the school’s credit, the administration unequivocally embraced the positive and constructive solutions proposed by students and educators during our dialogue. That wouldn’t have happened without the voices of Breanna and Mila in the room.
New Jersey’s LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum law is going to be a life-changing experience for our youth by ensuring the political, social, and economic contributions of our community are represented in classrooms, and we are committed to building robust and comprehensive curriculum that lifts up and inspires the next generation.
With the current law, local school boards are required to develop and implement the curriculum, which is a costly and burdensome task, but once we finish developing and test-piloting the curriculum, we will be offering it to every school district in New Jersey for free. We’ll also be providing “curriculum coaches” to train educators and ensure it is successfully implemented.
Thank you for helping us continue to build safe schools all across New Jersey. Our youth are depending on us, and we can only do this work because of your support.
Safe Schools & Community Education Manager
Garden State Equality
PS — Garden State Equality is currently hiring a Safe Schools Coordinator and four curriculum writers. Please visit our website to learn more and apply: www.GardenStateEquality.org/employment
Garden State Equality and Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to Test-Pilot LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum in Fall 2019Continue readingHackensack, NJ — Garden State Equality and Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) are proud to announce that BASCS will be one of roughly a dozen New Jersey public schools that will test-pilot an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum this fall.
Last month, a student-created mural, created as part of a BASCS art project and intended to express LGBTQ pride, caught Garden State Equality’s eye and garnered national attention when the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church of Hackensack, asked that the mural to be removed. As a result, representatives of Garden State Equality met with BASCS students, educators, and administrators last week for a “restorative practice dialogue.” The dialogue aired the issues and concluded with a commitment by BASCS to take several constructive actions, including its implementation of an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum next school year, a year before New Jersey’s law requiring such curriculum goes into effect.
“New Jersey public charter schools often have no other facilities option besides locating their schools in former parochial school buildings, and we are committed to working together with public charter schools to help them navigate these matters in a way that supports all of their students. Garden State Equality’s top priority is ensuring that LGBTQ students feel safe, affirmed, and supported, and to the school’s credit, the administration unequivocally embraced the positive and constructive solutions proposed by students and educators during our dialogue,” said Ashley Chiappano, Safe Schools & Community Education Manager for Garden State Equality. “We are proud to partner with Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to roll out our LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum test-pilot program later this year to ensure the political, social, and economic contributions of LGBTQ people are represented in classrooms.”
For its part, BASCS “is happy to participate in the test-pilot program and to be a leader in developing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum” said the school’s Lead Person, Nihat Guvercin. He added, “BASCS is committed to affirming LGBTQ student voices and successfully implementing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. For years, BASCS has successfully operated its school in a church building, complying with the requirements of its lease while also respecting the rights of its students. BASCS and the entire iLearn Schools network have proactively built school environments that uplift and give voice to diversity. The curriculum test-pilot will be an opportunity for us to become a leader in this work, to create a model for other public schools. We’re proud to participate with Garden State Equality to do that.”
“I am so happy real initiatives will be taking place at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to affirm LGBTQ students, and I will be doing everything in my power to work with my peers, educators, and the administration to ensure our goals are implemented with a fair outcome,” said Breanna, a sixteen year old junior at BASCS who painted the mural. She will be a senior at BASCS when school resumes in the fall. “There is still so much work to do on behalf of LGBTQ youth and students, and by building a safe and inclusive environment at our school, I am optimistic that no other student will ever have to go through a similar experience again.”
Breanna has been offered—and accepted—a summer internship with Garden State Equality for its Teach & Affirm program, which works to build safe schools for LGBTQ students across New Jersey.
In addition to the school’s participation in the test-pilot curriculum program, BASCS and Garden State Equality agreed to other deliverables:
- They will reconvene in the fall of 2019 and extend an invitation to the Archdiocese of Newark and the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church of Hackensack to participate. Conversations will continue through the summer. The school has agreed to foster communication between administration, faculty, and students on issues related to speech and inclusivity.
- In August, when teachers return to school, Garden State Equality will provide professional development training to BASCS faculty on LGBTQ issues and cultural competency and the newly adopted New Jersey state law requiring the LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum, which will go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year for all New Jersey public schools, including public charter schools, as well as the Law Against Discrimination, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, and the Department of Education’s transgender student guidance.
The New Jersey Department of Education will issue broad guidelines before the law’s implementation, but ultimately, local school boards are charged with developing and implementing the curriculum—a costly and burdensome task. Following the test-pilot program Garden State Equality’s curriculum will be offered to local school boards and districts at no cost. “Curriculum coaches” will be available to schools as well.
Governor Phil Murphy acknowledged Garden State Equality’s proactive work to create LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum during his speech at Garden State Equality’s Equality Ball on Friday, May 31, and Garden State Equality is in discussions with New Jersey’s Department of Education to partner on developing state guidelines. “I applaud Garden State Equality for not only leading this effort, but for your continued work in helping to craft this curriculum,” said Governor Phil Murphy at Garden State Equality’s Equality Ball.
Garden State Equality is partnering with Make It Better for Youth (www.makeitbetter4youth.org) to develop robust LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum that New Jersey public schools can implement. Garden State Equality will receive $185,000 in grant funding from the Braitmayer Foundation and PSEG Foundation over the next two years to develop LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and hire curriculum writers, for which job postings were made available on Monday, June 3 (www.gardenstateequality.org/employment). Garden State Equality will be test-piloting this curriculum in roughly a dozen New Jersey public schools for the 2019-2020 school year. The schools will represent geographic, economic, and racial diversity across New Jersey. Garden State Equality is finalizing a partnership with a New Jersey public university to conduct IRB-approved student and faculty surveys that will take place at the beginning and conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year to measure the efficacy of the curriculum as it relates to improving schools’ LGBTQ-affirming culture and climate. Additionally, Garden State Equality will be providing “curriculum coaches” at no cost to each individual test-pilot school to train and educate schools’ educators on how to effectively and successfully implement the curriculum.
As more states look to New Jersey for ideas on how to innovative on LGBTQ equality through policy and programs, Garden State Equality intends to provide its curriculum to other states that implement similar laws.
Garden State Equality Condemns Erasure of Student’s LGBTQ Pride Mural in Hackensack Public School Over Church ObjectionsContinue reading
Church has extended history of censoring curriculum and student speech on LGBTQ Issues within the school
This week, an LGBTQ pride mural created by a student at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) was painted over following complaints by the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church, who called the rainbow heart “offensive”. BASCS is a public school that is privately run as a charter school.
Garden State Equality was informed by the student, a sixteen year old high school junior at BASCS, that the school has a long history of restricting education and censoring faculty and students’ speech within the school.
Following complaints by the landlord in 2018, the school abolished a long-running daily educational program, which taught students about a unique historical figure each day, after the school included LGBTQ figures during Pride Month. Additionally, the school’s psychologist was forced to remove a poster supportive of LGBTQ students. The poster was signed by faculty and students and merely declared the office a “safe space” for LGBTQ students to enter for support.
New Jersey’s LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Law, passed in January 2019, will take effect in the 2020-2021 school year, and as a public school, BASCS would be required to implement the law.
“It is offensive, unconscionable, and flatly unconstitutional for this church acting as a for-profit landlord to restrict a public school’s curriculum or censor student speech within those walls. This type of hate-fueled bigotry is precisely why New Jersey needs LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum to promote acceptance and understanding,” said Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino. “Garden State Equality will never back down from fighting for LGBTQ youth, and we call on the Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to restore the artwork and enhance its curriculum to teach its students that hate and censorship are not welcome in New Jersey’s public schools.”
“The school’s actions in destroying a student’s artwork is rank censorship and out of step with New Jersey values and our laws. Decades ago, the United State Supreme Court held that students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,’” said Garden State Equality board member and former state bar president Thomas Prol, Esq. “It is sadly ironic that an educational institution is now delivering a lesson in censorship to these students during their tender years.”
I am proud to share with you that the House of Representatives just voted 236-173 to pass The Equality Act!
Today’s passage means we are now one step closer to securing historic non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans nationwide and ensuring equality under the law truly means equality for all.
Now, The Equality Act moves on to the U.S. Senate, where we face a tough, uphill battle.
We worked hard to secure the support of every Representative in our state, and you should be proud that New Jersey’s Democratic Congressional Caucus voted unanimously to support The Equality Act in addition to sponsoring the bill. We’re especially grateful to Congressman Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02) for joining the rest of the caucus in support of equality. The only lawmaker from New Jersey who voted against our community was Republican Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04).
As the Equality Act moves to the U.S. Senate, we will be working diligently with our national partners as well as our allies Senator Cory Booker and Senator Bob Menendez to get this critical legislation passed.
Thanks for helping us make this day possible. We’re moving New Jersey and the nation forward.
Garden State Equality
Governor Murphy orders New Jersey Army National Guard to Defy Trump’s Ban on Transgender Military Service MembersContinue reading
New Jersey Becomes Sixth State to Protect Trans National Guard Members
Today, Governor Murphy issued an order to exercise every available option of power to allow transgender individuals to serve openly in the New Jersey Army National Guard. The executive action comes in defiance of the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender service members, which took effect on April 12, 2019.
Under previous state administrations, swift action, or any action at all, would have been unlikely without public pressure. Given the Governor’s commitment to LGBTQ equality, Garden State Equality was able to work closely with his office to develop implementation.
New Jersey now joins five other states that have taken action: California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and New Mexico. Governors have primary control over National Guard policy for their state.
"Since the Trump-Pence administration’s ban on transgender service members went into effect last month, this disgraceful policy is already wreaking havoc. We’ve seen college students lose their military scholarships, countless recruits be turned away, and the jobs and healthcare of nearly 15,000 active and reserve transgender service members at risk of being terminated,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director for Garden State Equality. “Governor Murphy’s bold action today to protect transgender troops serving in the New Jersey Army National Guard is a critical defense against the President’s unconstitutional and discriminatory ban, and it means brave transgender public servants can get back to work defending our nation without fear of being discharged.“
“As I have stated before, President Trump’s policy targeting transgender individuals who wish to serve in our military is abhorrent and un-American,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “I am proud to join with Governors in sister states, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, in declaring firm opposition to this policy and announcing my intention to use every option available to allow transgender individuals to serve in the National Guard. Under my administration, New Jersey has joined the multi-state coalition that has urged the courts to strike down the transgender ban as unconstitutional, and we will continue to fight this bigoted policy and defend the rights of all New Jersey residents.”
In February 2018, under the leadership of Governor Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, New Jersey also joined a coalition of states to overturn the ban with an amicus filing in federal court in the case Ryan Karnoski v. Trump. Various litigation is pending throughout the federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court is anticipated to hear a case in the coming months.
The Trump administration’s ban affects as many as 15,000 active and reserve transgender service members across the nation. Individuals who come out—or are found out—as transgender after April 12 will be subject to discharge unless they renounce their identity. A few hundred service members who previously transitioned before the April 12 deadline are permitted to continue to serve. Under the Trump administration’s policy, no future recruits who are transgender will be permitted to enlist in the military. The policy has additionally resulted in transgender college students from losing military scholarships.
Just now, Governor Phil Murphy issued an order to allow transgender troops to serve openly in the New Jersey Army National Guard—exercising every available option in his power—in defiance of the Trump-Pence administration’s discriminatory ban.
Under the previous administration, swift action—or any action at all—would have been unlikely without public pressure. Given the Governor’s commitment to LGBTQ equality, Garden State Equality was able to work closely with his office to develop implementation.
New Jersey now joins five other states across the nation in clearly stating: this ban is discriminatory, it’s unconstitutional, and we won’t enforce it.
This is an important step to protect dedicated public servants within our state borders, but transgender troops across the nation in other military branches are still at risk. Since the ban went into effect last month, this disgraceful policy is already wreaking havoc:
- Trans college students are losing their military scholarships.
- Countless trans recruits are being denied enlistment at a time when overall recruitment is down.
- And almost 15,000 active and reserve trans service members are being forced back in the closet—at risk of losing their job and their healthcare.
There’s numerous cases working their way through federal courts right now which will eventually get in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Fortunately, last year, under the leadership of Governor Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, New Jersey also joined a coalition of states to overturn the ban with an amicus filing in federal court.
Governor Murphy’s bold action today to protect transgender troops serving in the New Jersey Army National Guard is a critical defense against the President’s unconstitutional and discriminatory ban, and for now, it means brave transgender service members can get back to work defending our nation without fear of being discharged.
We couldn’t be doing this work for transgender equality here in New Jersey without your steadfast support—and our allies in Trenton. We're making a real difference.
Thanks for standing with us and, more importantly, with our troops.
Garden State Equality
Ensuring quality of life for LGBTQ older adults is critical to Garden State Equality’s mission.
In the next decade, it’s estimated there will be more than five million Americans over the age of fifty who identify as LGBTQ, and studies show the older adult community already experiences unique challenges including isolation poverty, and significant health disparities. Worse, due to a lack of affirming services, many LGBTQ people find themselves going back into the closet.
That’s why we launched our Pledge & Protect program: to confront these issues head-on and build a network of compassionate, inclusive services across every corner of New Jersey.
All of our important work in this area is coming together next month in an exciting educational and professional event:
Through our partnership with Green Hill senior living community, we’re hosting the 2nd Annual LGBTQ Senior Housing & Care Expo—bringing together LGBTQ people and service providers to build more affirming healthcare and environments for senior living.
Whether you are an LGBTQ older adult, a healthcare provider, or work with older adult communities, you will learn about important tools and resources to foster inclusive communities and care.
This year’s expo includes educational seminars on:
- Making the case for LGBTQ senior inclusion
- Healthcare needs and partnerships
- Environment & culture in an LGBTQ senior community
- Cultural competency certification across channels
- Legislative update from Garden State Equality on the NJ LGBTQ Older Adults bill
The LGBTQ Senior Housing & Care Expo is completely free and open to the public. Additionally, a networking lunch is provided to pre-registered participants!
This is just part of our work serving older adults in New Jersey—but it’s one of the most important events each year for us to bring together the community and service providers to build real, lasting change. You won’t want to miss it.
If you want to know more, feel free to reach out. I hope to see you next month.
Health & Wellness Coordinator
Garden State Equality
One of Garden State Equality’s most exciting programs that’s truly changing the culture and climate of our schools for LGBTQ people is Educators for Equality.
We started Educators for Equality last year after one of our supporters, Dr. Lori Burns, researched the experiences of New Jersey LGBTQ educators and shockingly discovered teachers experienced bullying and harassment at rates similar to students themselves. In response, we brought together a small group of educators to work on building LGBTQ-affirming environments in schools not just for students but for educators and faculty as well.
Today, I’m proud to say Educators for Equality has over two-hundred members from across New Jersey who are working to build safe and inclusive schools, and I want to invite you to be a part of this growing community of LGBTQ educators and allies!
Educators for Equality Networking Event
Friday, May 3, 2019
6:00 - 9:00 PM
The Asbury Hotel
210 5th Avenue
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
This will be an incredible opportunity to connect with educators from across the state—especially as we prepare to implement New Jersey’s historic LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum law.
We’ll also have guest speakers including Jan Moore and Emily Sonnessa from the awarding-winning film "Love Wins," who will share their coming out story and discuss the importance of teaching LGBTQ history.
Thank you to the NJEA Early Career Network, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and Salt Hotels for sponsoring this event.
I look forward to seeing you next Friday in Asbury Park!
Safe Schools Coordinator
Garden State Equality
Yesterday, we were relieved to learn the U.S. Supreme Court tretdeclined to hear a challenge to overturn New Jersey’s ban on gay and transgender conversion therapy.
But just as we feared, the so-called “family values” hate group Liberty Counsel has announced their plans to refile the case—threatening to overturn New Jersey’s ban and numerous others across the nation.
With Trump stacking not only the Supreme Court but the entire U.S. judicial system with radical anti-LGBTQ judges, there’s no telling what will happen when our case gets in front of them again. We’ve already seen this Court strike down critical civil rights protections while affirming the Trump-Pence administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, including the discriminatory trans military ban.
We simply cannot let New Jersey’s ban on gay and trans conversion therapy be overturned.
Liberty Counsel has been fighting this ban since we first passed it in 2013. They’ve got deep pockets and are supported by a network of hundreds of volunteer lawyers across the nation. They’re not going to give up. Here’s what they said yesterday:
“[Liberty Counsel] will refile this case in New Jersey and soon get one of the cases before the Supreme Court. It is not a question of if, but when, the Supreme Court will take one of these cases… The fundamental rights of counselors and clients to exercise their right to speak in private counseling sessions must be protected."
It’s horrifying that this bigoted hate group is so relentless in arguing for a constitutional right to irreparably abuse children and young adults—and under the guise of supposed “free speech” and “religious freedom,” no less.
Every sensible, compassionate person across New Jersey and this country knows: conversion therapy is dangerous, discredited malpractice. It is nothing short of child abuse. Gay and transgender children across the country are depending on us right now, and make no mistake, Garden State Equality will fight this every step of the way.
There’s more to come, but rest assured, we’re going to fight this with everything we’ve got.
Garden State Equality
PS - This is going to be a long and expensive battle, so no matter what you can give, please chip in. Every dollar is going to count in this fight. Please, click here to help out.
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear King v. Murphy, a challenge against New Jersey’s ban on gay and transgender conversion therapy for minors. Garden State Equality was named in the suit as a respondent.
The Supreme Court’s decision to deny a hearing ensures New Jersey’s law remains in effect and protects bans in fifteen other states across the country, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
“In rejecting this case today, the Supreme Court recognized what every sensible and compassionate person across New Jersey and this country knows: anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy is dangerous, discredited malpractice. It is nothing short of child abuse, and there is no legal argument to defend this horrible practice," said Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino. “It’s alarming that this bigotry-driven and legally-hollow case even got to the Justices for consideration, and this is a stark reminder that the rights of LGBTQ people—even here in New Jersey—are constantly under attack.”
Earlier this year, Garden State Equality organized a legal strike team of prominent lawyers, including Garden State Equality board member Thomas Prol, to assist in defending the ban. David Flugman of Selendy & Gay led the litigation effort for Garden State Equality with support from GluckWalrath.
The legal challenge was brought by the anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel, which was designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Liberty Counsel is based in Florida.
“The science is clear that conversion therapy is dangerous and doesn’t work, yet a few outliers insist on fighting for a constitutional right to irreparably abuse children and young adults,” said Thomas Prol, who is a Garden State Equality board member and part of the litigation team. “This is the same group that proudly declares ‘homosexuality is wrong and unnatural’ while trying to hide their hate behind the guise of ‘religious liberty.’ Fortunately, that doesn’t hold up in court, and we’re relieved the Supreme Court agrees.”
The ban was signed into law in August 2013 by former Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, after being approved by both houses of the state legislature with a veto-proof supermajority. New Jersey was the second state in the nation to pass a ban on conversion therapy for minors. Today, sixteen states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico ban the practice. Legislation is pending in eighteen additional states. Most recently, Colorado’s legislature passed a ban and is imminently awaiting the governor’s signature.
In a signing statement, Governor Christie cited the American Psychological Association’s conclusion that conversion therapy poses “critical health risks” such as depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts while lacking “clear evidence” of any benefits.
In addition to the American Psychological Association, every other major professional medical and mental health organization has rejected conversion therapy as ineffective, unethical and dangerous, including the World Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, American School Health Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, et al.
The decision to deny a writ of certiorari to Liberty Counsel was made behind closed doors during the U.S. Supreme Court’s conference. A longstanding informal rule requires that a minimum of four Justices must vote to grant cert and hear a case.
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