What’s in your backpack?

August 11

Last week, South River school district in Middlesex County announced a new policy that would require all students in grades K-12 to use a clear backpack on school grounds. Previously, only high school students had to follow this safety rule. The superintendent communicated to parents that she believes this “extra measure” will help keep prohibited items out of school. South River is not the first school district to implement this type of protocol.

The community is split on the necessity and the positive effect such a policy will have on students. But one thing is clear, school officials want to see what your children are bringing to school.

Parents also have a similar request. Parents want to see what the school is teaching their children! However, it seems the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and many legislators believe allowing parents easy access to lessons is problematic for some teachers.

Two years ago, during the Covid shutdown, classes went virtual into the homes of families. Parents across the country began to see and hear what their children were actually learning.  A number of teachers were uncomfortable because their private classroom discussions were now transparent.

In the spirit of this post-modern age, let’s redefine the word “transparent.” Transparent: A parent who is present but you don’t know they are there!

Now I understand why legislators are having a difficult time in passing “Transparency in Education” bills here in NJ.

Republican Senators Pennacchio, Oroho, Durr, Holzapfel introduced a bill in February 2022 that would require school districts to post all lessons and materials online for all subjects. The bill has not been allowed to be brought up in the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Vin Gopal (D) Legislative District 11 (Monmouth County).

Senator Gopal, the Democratic leader of the Senate Education Committee and his colleague Senator Joseph Lagana (D) Legislative District 38 (parts of Bergen County), did introduce their own bill in May 2022 that would require schools to post lessons only related to Sex Ed. It passed committee, but has stalled, without any timeframe of when or if the bill will move forward for a full floor vote. We hope that this specific bill is being amended to include all subjects, but only time will tell.

In conclusion, senators from both political parties want some form of transparency. We don’t know how “transparent” Gopal and Lagana truly want their bill to be, since it is limited only to Sex Ed. However, political pressure behind the scenes, most likely from the New Jersey Education Association, is making a common-sense solution to address the concerns of parents into a difficult drawn-out process. The legislature is off this month on their summer break. We will keep you posted in the weeks ahead on the progress of NJ becoming an honest and open education state.

Together, we will continue to fight for our families,

Len Deo