In an effort to cultivate more welcoming learning environments, the Senate Education Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Senators Richard Codey and Bob Smith which would require school districts to provide instruction on diversity and inclusion as part of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.

“I learned at a young age to be tolerant and understanding of those who are different. It is a life skill that is vital, and it’s important that respect and inclusion be reflected in our schools,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex/Morris). “Teaching our students at a young age to appreciate our differences as well as the things that bring us all together as Americans will help them grow up to be more well-rounded adults. While in June the State Board of Education adopted the 2020 New Jersey State Learning Standards, which included an increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion, this bill will strengthen and codify this new curriculum so that it can continue to be a requirement in the years to come.”

Under the bill, S-2781, the instruction would highlight and promote diversity, equity, inclusion, tolerance, and belonging. The topics would include gender and sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, disabilities, religious tolerance, and unconscious bias.

The purpose of the bill is to encourage safe, welcoming, and inclusive environments for all students regardless of their background.

“Each student is unique and different in their own ways, and it is important that we emphasize these differences instead of ignoring them,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “By incorporating this instruction into a school’s curriculum, we can teach our students to celebrate all the factors that go into making them unique from one another. Our goal is that this bill will lead to a more inclusive and welcoming generation of New Jerseyans.”

Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education would provide school districts with sample learning activities and resources designed to promote diversity and inclusion.

The bill cleared committee by a vote of 4-2.

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