"Controversial issues" legislation in New Jersey dies

A pair of identical bills in New Jersey that would have required the state board of education to adopt rules to prevent public school teachers in the state from engaging in what they describe as "political, ideological or religious advocacy in the classroom" died in committee when the 2021-2022 legislative session ended on January 11, 2022.

The rules demanded by Assembly Bill 6136 and Senate Bill 4166 would have required teachers to "provide students with materials supporting both sides of a controversial issue being addressed and to present both sides in a fair-minded, nonpartisan manner," where "controversial issue" was defined as "an issue that is part of an electoral party platform at the local, state, or federal level." As Ars Technica (January 29, 2019) observed in discussing a spate of similar measures in 2019, "a large number of state party platforms specifically mention evolution and climate change." The bills would also have established penalties for violations "up to and including termination of employment."

Assembly Bill 6136 was introduced on December 6, 2021, by Gerard Scharfenberger (R-District 13) and Robert Auth (R-District 39). Senate Bill 4166 was introduced on November 22, 2021, by Michael L. Testa Jr. (R-District 1) and Joseph Pennachio (R-District 26). Neither bill received a hearing in committee. Identical bills were introduced in the 2022-2023 legislative session, as NCSE reported.

Glenn Branch
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Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.