Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco on Monday called for the resignation of a Hackensack School Board trustee who called new state laws that require teaching about LGBTQ history “repugnant.”
“Bergen County’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths, and the thousands of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender help make us all stronger, and help make all of our 70 communities stronger," Tedesco said.
“It is important that we stand in solidarity against bigotry, violence, and discrimination and continue to reaffirm our commitment to equal rights for everyone, especially those in the LGBTQ community.
“Hackensack School Board Trustee Frances Cogelja’s remarks about the LGBTQ community are shameful and unacceptable," Tedesco added. "We cannot and must not tolerate discrimination from anyone, let alone our elected officials.
"Her remarks are proof positive she is out of touch with her constituency and that she should resign from office.”
In an email to Acting (City) Schools Supt. Rosemary Marks, Cogelja wrote that the new laws, which require that the curriculum be incorporated in New Jersey middle and high school beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, are a waste of time.
"I am disgusted and appalled," she added. "I fear where we are headed as a nation. We have a large percentage of kids who cannot read or do math at their grade level, and our governor thinks we should be wasting valuable instruction time on this nonsense.
“Everywhere I turn, this alternative lifestyle narrative is being shoved done our children's throats," Cogelja wrote to Marks. "Where does it end???”
Nearly 200 people flocked to a Hackensack Board of Education meeting last Monday night to express their feelings about the emails. Some waved rainbow flags, while others wore t-shirts with equality-related slogans.
Former Hackensack Board of Education member Jason Nunnermacker also filed a complaint with the state School Ethics Commission last Thursday.
A Change.org petition seeking Cogelja’s resignation collected nearly 1,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton agreed."As an elected official charged with educating our children, it’s Ms. Cogejlja’ responsibility to support a curriculum that teaches ALL American history, not just the parts she agrees with," said Cureton, the former president of the Bergen County NAACP.
"Racism, bigotry, and hate must not be tolerated," he said. "Therefore, Board Trustee Frances Cogelja should resign from office."
Cogelja so far has insisted that she isn't resigning.
She said she reached out to district officials as a concerned parent and that her comments are protected by the First Amendment.
"I wanted to know if I could opt out of those lessons for my child only and I was told that yes I could," the mother of two wrote in an email to Daily Voice last week. “I have no disdain or disgust or any other negative feeling toward people who have a different sexual lifestyle from my own.
"Limited classroom time should be spent on teaching children to be critical thinkers and to be proficient in the subjects they need to succeed in high school and beyond,” Cogelja added.
"I have every right as a parent to not have my child participate in something that I do not think is suitable as part of a public school curriculum," she added. "I believe conversations having to do with sexuality should be had at home between parents and their children."
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