By: Chantal N. Guerriero, Esq. and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
As most are aware of, recent progress surrounding the legal rights of LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace has become national news. Specifically, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in June of 2020 that individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ have the right to freedom from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, thereby cementing more protective federal regulations for the LGBTQ+ community. As pride month draws to an end, there remains much discretion on the state level with regard to both protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as implementing regulations designed to better educate and bring to light the American history of the LGBTQ+ community.
In New Jersey, Governor Murphy signed into law a New Jersey mandate that middle and high school 2020-2021 curriculums include:
instruction on the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, in an appropriate place in the curriculum of middle school and high school students as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards.
Assembly Bill A1335.
In effect, the Bill means that come this fall, public middle and high schools in New Jersey will no longer have the option to omit educating their students on the history and contributions of the LGBTQ+ in the United States. The Bill also mandates that a board of education implement policies and procedures pertaining to the selection and implementation of the new curriculum, and that it must “portray the cultural and economic diversity of society including the political, economic, and social contributions” of the disabled and LGBTQ+ community.
While the Bill has yet to take effect, there have been and will continue to be groups who oppose its implementation in schools. For example, the Bill may meet resistance from middle and high school administrators responsible for implementing the bill, or even teachers responsible for teaching the new curriculum. To that end, school employees who oppose or object to their school’s failure to implement the bill may also face retaliation. However, in New Jersey, employees who reasonably believe that their employers are violating a clear mandate of law or public policy and voice their objections are protected from retaliation by their employers under The Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”). Moreover, employees who are discriminated against or retaliated against due to their own sexual or affectional orientation or gender are also protected under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”). Thus, as the new curriculum rolls out, school employees should be aware of these protections.
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