"Controversial issues" legislation in New Jersey reintroduced

Assembly Bill 783 and Senate Bill 598, a pair of identical bills that would require 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" and establish penalties for violations "up to and including termination of employment," were introduced in the New Jersey legislature in January 2022.

The rules demanded by the bills would require 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."

Assembly Bill 783 was introduced by Gerard Scharfenberger (R-District 13) and Robert Auth (R-District 39). Senate Bill 598 was introduced by Michael L. Testa Jr. (R-District 1) and Joseph Pennachio (R-District 26). The bills are identical to predecessors introduced by the same legislators late in the 2020-2021 legislative session, Assembly Bill 6136 and Senate Bill 4166, which died in committee when the legislative session ended, as NCSE reported.

Glenn Branch
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Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.