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Hackensack BOE Trustee Responds To 'Homophobic' Emails

Frances Cogelja
Frances Cogelja Photo Credit: Putting Kids First for Hackensack BOE Facebook

A Hackensack Board of Education trustee stirred controversy when she told district officials that she was not only disturbed by the state's new LGBT school curriculum law -- but felt it would be a waste of time for students, a new report reveals.

The words "repugnant" and "disgust" were used by Frances Cogelia in emails to district officials expressing her sentiments toward the new state LGBT laws, which requires LGBT history be incorporated in middle and high school curriculums, OutInJersey reports.

Cogelja sent several emails to Acting Superintendent Rosemary Marks saying the law was shocking and disturbing, the website reported.

OutInJersey obtained the emails through an Open Public Records Act request.

"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," Cogelja apparently said in one.  "I am disgusted and appalled. I fear where we are headed as a nation."

The trustee told Daily Voice she reached out to district officials as a concerned parent.

"I wanted to know if I could opt out of those lessons for my child only and I was told that yes I could," Cogelja said in an email to Daily Voice.

"I have no disdain or disgust or any other negative feeling toward people who have a different sexual lifestyle from my own.

"I believe conversations having to do with sexuality should be had at home between parents and their children."

A Change.org petition was seeking 200 signatures to have Cogelja resign.

In her campaign for her seat on the BOE, the mom of two vowed to removed politics from schools.

Cogelja is the former PTA president of the Hillers School and member of the Fairmount School, according to the Facebook campaign page.

Local organization Hackensack's Future said Cogelja's "homophobic and exclusionary" emails were disturbing.

"Her clear disdain for the LGBT community is offensive, not only to those individuals, but also their loved ones and allies," the organization wrote on Facebook.

"The new law she references is about ensuring proper representation in our curriculum and recognizing the positive contributions of members of the LGBT community to our society. There is nothing ‘disgusting’ or ‘shocking’ about celebrating our diverse history and recognizing underrepresented and marginalized groups.

"Everyone is entitled to a personal opinion, but when you attempt to use your position to circumvent state law, and further marginalize the LGBT members in our community, including our students and staff, one should reconsider if they are best equipped to serve all children in a community as diverse as Hackensack."

Cogelja maintained she never directed the district to violate the new curriculum law.

"Our school district has a very high percentage of students who cannot read, write or compute math at grade level," she told Daily Voice.

"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.

"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."

Click here for more from OutInJersey.

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