Concerns Raised Over Lawsuits

July 25, 2023

The first official Board of Education meeting for the 2023/2024 academic year was held on July 24. The assembly was relatively uneventful, compared to recent heated sessions and discussions, but did feature some notable developments. 

First off, the Board unanimously approved two new extracurricular clubs, a Greek Club and Outdoors Club. They also discussed the possibility of adding an additional floating counselor at the K-5 grade levels. This would bring the number of elementary school counselors up to six, with one at each of the four schools and two who would each travel exclusively between two specific schools.

The new American Government and Physics textbooks were approved at Ridge. Board member Jennifer White discussed staff training taking place through Lifeline to support issues of loss and various “what if” scenarios teachers encounter in dealing with student wellness. White also highlighted the success of student forum and panel discussions that have revealed pressures, anxieties and concerns expressed by the Ridge student body.

Public comments aired at the meeting ranged from a request to add Rosh Hashanah to the district calendar, and making digital copies of textbooks available for review, to ongoing concerns about more conservative board members pushing their personal beliefs and politics on the greater community.

While two citizens praised the conservative majority for protecting “parent interests,” a greater number of individuals shared harsh criticism of the board and recent proceedings. Several questioned the unethical behavior of Board member Csipak publicly asking for the Director of Curriculum to be removed and asked what the consequences of her behavior would be, citing a lack of response from Board President Molinari and the Board’s attorney. Another speaker accused the conservative majority of not securing kids’ education, as they profess, but rather of sabotaging it.

There were also public questions regarding ongoing lawsuits aimed at Bernards Township schools, one concerning allegations of bullying and discrimination at WAMS, and the other filed against a sitting board member for libel and defamation. That board member’s inappropriate social media posts and commentary were also called into question.

Finally, in its concluding Board Forum, members debated their approach to instructing parents about opting out of sensitive health curriculum in the coming school year. After much discussion, a majority decided there would not be direction given as to what the Board considered to be 12 different standards of sensitive topics. Instead, parents will be given more general direction, allowing them to opt out of any subject matter they consider objectionable. 

By Jennifer Aaron, BTDC Vice Chair

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