Under fire by parents for exposing kids to porn in school, Board of Education meets in tiny room to keep public out

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WAYNE, NJ — Complaints continue to pile up from parents and taxpayers about how the Wayne Township Board of Education is handling matters ranging from meeting venues, curriculum changes and controversial books.

Last week, the Wayne Township Board of Education (BOE) reconvened on Nov. 11 —  the first time in more than a month.

However, the BOE’s choice of venue in a 21-seat conference room in the K-12 district’s office building at 50 Nellis Drive upset many people who wanted to attend and participate in the public portion of the meeting.

Because the BOE chose a smaller location, some members of the public felt they were denied access to the meeting — due to the building’s maximum capacity — and could not have their voices heard.

Others were concerned about a potential disregard for COVID-19 safety protocols.

The BOE has held its meetings at the much larger municipal building since 2020 when the pandemic began.

During the meeting’s public portion, the first speaker, whose name was not audible, addressed the Board and suggested it was being hypocritical regarding social distancing concerns and implied there was an ulterior motive for using a cramped location:

“I think what everyone’s concerned about is they don’t understand why this [meeting] has been moved to such a smaller room when we have so many people inside and outside.

“We’ve got no concerns for social distancing….If you’re concerned about social distancing, why are we in this tiny room when you could have had it in any of the schools in this district?

“We chose to do — what’s it for — normalcy? This isn’t normalcy, it’s intimidation of freedom of speech because you want to intimidate people not to come.”

According to a report by NorthJersey.Com, there were at least twice as many people in attendance, and most of the crowd was pushed out into the hallway.

One attendee said that most people could not see or hear what was going on during the BOE meeting and could not fully participate as a result.

Another attendee of the Nov. 11 meeting, Norman Robertson, confirmed the tight quarters when he addressed the Board:

“Let the record show I had to climb over several people to get to this podium because you have 25 people in a very tiny room.”

Wendy Limandri, of Rose Terrace, was one of many who could not get into the conference room. She told NorthJersey.Com:

“The venue tonight is insulting, to say the least. It’s ridiculous to think taxpayers of Wayne have to be in this situation, like sardines.

“The beautiful thing is that the passion is here, and it’s not going away.”

Limandri waited outside on a cold evening to see if she and others would be allowed into the building.

Police had secured the doorway and reminded the public that only a limited number of spectators could legally fit in the room. If a spectator left, then police would allow another person inside.

Wayne Board of Education President Catherine Kazan did not seem too concerned about going back to the tiny conference room in the midst of a still deadly pandemic.

Kazan said that the move was not intended to be punitive against the public and told NorthJersey.Com:

“It’s not new, and it’s not a punishment. These meetings are not just for public comments. These meetings are to do the business of the board. We have a school district to run.”

After the meeting ended, Board Attorney John Geppert Jr. told NorthJersey.Com that the smaller venue conformed with the state’s Sunshine Law because no one was technically denied access to the building.

Geppert also told NorthJersey.Com that some members of the public were given opportunities to address trustees and that some did so twice.

Despite Geppert trying to make it appear that the BOE was being transparent and accessible, some parents disagreed with his assessment.

Jennifer Leyton expressed her concerns about a disconnect between the public and the BOE. She told NorthJersey.Com:

“What I’ve seen take place has devolved into the exact opposite of transparency.

 “I’m not sure where we need to go to make this work, but whatever this is, it’s not bringing the community and board together.”

The BOE seemingly responded to the public backlash regarding last week’s smaller venue and decided to hold its next meeting on Nov. 18 back at the larger municipal building.

News 12’s Naomi Yane reported that the meeting was packed and heavily secured by Wayne police. She also spoke with parents who said the school should remove the book “Gender Queer” from its shelves. Parents told Yane the book is inappropriate and pornographic.

Last month, members of the public spoke during the public portion of the BOE meeting and expressed their opinions about topics ranging from masks, vaccines, curriculum and books.

Parents mentioned four controversial books, including “Gender Queer,” that were available to students at Wayne schools. They criticized the books as inappropriate and pornographic.

During the BOE’s Nov. 11 meeting, a process for contesting books was discussed between members.  Clarification was given to Board members that parents would need to complete a “book challenge” form and submit it to the principal of their child’s school.

A committee would then be formed to review the challenged material. While under review, the book in question would be removed from shelves until a final decision was made and communicated to the parents.

If it was determined that a book should be removed, the Board would then have to provide a written explanation as to the reason for its removal.

The Wayne Township school district consists of two high schools, three middle schools, nine elementary schools and an Early Childhood Center. The 15 schools serve more than 8,000 students in pre-school through 12th grade.

“Gender Queer” has already been removed from school districts in several other states, but News 12’s Yane reported that as of Nov. 18, the book had not been pulled from Wayne’s high school library.

The Board meeting was still in session as of 10 p.m. on Thursday so Yane was not able to confirm whether the fate of the book was determined and video of the meeting was not uploaded as of the morning of Nov. 19.

While “Gender Queer” deals with LGBTQ+ topics, some parents say the book’s graphic depictions and descriptions go too far.

Rhonda Long told News 12:

“The book is sexually graphic. The book touches on topics such as sexting, it talks about OxyContin, it talks about masturbating while driving.

“We are not anti-curriculum, we are not anti-diversity, we are not anti-gay. The parents are just asking to be heard and to be a part of the process.”

However, Ferrante appeared to dismiss the parents’ concerns and instead suggested books like “Gender Queer” are “resources” that children need. She previously told News 12:

“All of our students should be represented in education….These books dealt with LGBTQ+ topics and it was singling out a group of kids that any of them that were watching that board meeting felt that this wasn’t really fair towards them.

“These are resources that these kids need.”

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WEA Secretary and Events Coordinator Dennis Carroll told News 12 that he was concerned about the children who might be watching BOE meetings:

“We are there for them. There’s a lot of discontent going on at these board meetings and the behavior has been quite difficult for those kids to observe.

“The message has also been difficult, and the message is there might not be a place for you here in Wayne…and we don’t want our kids to feel that way.”

Wayne’s parents are also concerned about curriculum mandates, which were imposed by Gov. Phil Murphy and took effect beginning in the 2021-22 school year.

Murphy had signed a measure into law requiring the state’s Board of Education to implement more inclusive instruction regarding sexual education, diversity and equity.

The Wayne Education Association (WEA), the union that represents teachers and secretaries in the district, indicated that BOE members, along with teachers, are being verbally attacked because of curriculum changes in the district.

WEA President Eda Ferrante told News 12:

“We’re seeing a lot of pushback from some members of the community that are not happy with the changes being proposed.

 “Within the equity and diversity inclusion curriculum, some people feel that we’re teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT).”

Ferrante denied the district was promoting CRT, saying:

“We are simply teaching and promoting other cultures. We’re promoting other students’ cultures and religions and types of people.”

However, Norman Robertson, brought up the issue of pedagogy when he addressed the Board on Nov. 11. He emphasized there is a difference between critical theory and critical race theory:

“It would be a mistake for you to think that [with] a town this large that no one understands critical theory. I didn’t say critical race theory. I said critical theory, and I know that some of you know about this.

“Critical theory is a post-modernist, neo-Marxist political and social construct that includes things like critical race theory, critical feminist theory, gender theory, queer theory, post-colonial theory, just to name a few.

“It arose in the European Marxist communities, primarily in France and Germany, after World War II.”

Robertson then suggested the Board is implementing a Marxist-based pedagogy into the district:

“Perhaps most pertinent to us here is the concept of critical pedagogy….All the things that you’ve done in the last year — not everything, but all the major things that people are concerned about — are just steeped in critical theory.”

Robertson said it was apparent that critical theory was influencing the district’s summer reading projects and even its new mission statement:

“Your new mission statement borrows liberally from the language of critical pedagogy in ways that three minutes wouldn’t allow me to explain.

“But here’s what happened. The superintendent supplied you with someone to facilitate your planning process. However, her title was not a facilitator. Her title was a trainer.

“She may have been inspirational, but it probably didn’t occur to you that you were being trained.”

 Robertson was then informed his time was up.

Editor note: In 2020, we saw a nationwide push to “defund the police”.  While we all stood here shaking our heads wondering if these people were serious… they cut billions of dollars in funding for police officers.  And as a result, crime has skyrocketed – all while the same politicians who said “you don’t need guns, the government will protect you” continued their attacks on both our police officers and our Second Amendment rights.

And that’s exactly why we’re launching this national crowdfunding campaign as part of our efforts to help “re-fund the police”.

For those looking for a quick link to get in the fight and support the cause, click here.

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