New Jersey education leaders and many others are applauding the directive issued by Gov. Phil Murphy that calls on the state Department of Education to review updated student learning standards and provide clarification on what age-appropriate guidelines look like for subjects including gender identity and sexual orientation.

Many parents and politicians have voiced concerns this week about the standards, and how they will be integrated into classroom instruction in New Jersey public schools beginning next fall.

Lots of misinterpretation

Rich Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said “the governor’s idea to get information I think is very important right now because there have been some misinterpretations of what has happened with the standards.”

Some Republican lawmakers have voiced fears that the standards would open the door to children in kindergarten, first and second-grade getting lessons about different sexual issues that could include graphic detail.

Open a school house
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Sen. Edward Durr, R-Gloucester, went one step further on Tuesday, announcing he is sponsoring a measure that would prohibit schools from making any mention of gender identity and sexual orientation until at least seventh grade.

Bozza pointed out that as different school districts decide how best to present their physical education and health classes to their students, there is a requirement for them to consult with representatives of the community.

Get the right information out

“There really is an obligation to get out the correct information, for the superintendent of schools and the board of education, in particular, to say here’s what we’re doing in our community, here’s how we’re developing a curriculum,” said Bozza.

He noted it’s up to each individual school district “to promulgate the curriculum that responds to the state standards and certainly there can be conversations in districts by community members of different points of view.”

State Sen. Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said the fact that Murphy wants to slow down the implementation of the new standards is a positive step.

He also said it’s vital to get community members involved.

“Let’s get parents at the table, let’s get psychologists at the table and then you can make a determination on what to teach and when to teach,” he said.

“You always want to talk to the parents, parents are still in charge, you want to psychologists who have dealt with children, who have a specific expertise in child psychology.”

Bozza said if parents have questions or concerns about curriculum issues they should go to their local school district and “talk with the superintendent, talk with the board of education so that what that district is indeed doing can get out, and I think they would be comforted when they find out what the reality is.”

He added once that happens, “people realize that the perceptions that are out there that something really extreme is happening is indeed not happening.”

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

NJ county fairs make a comeback: Check out the schedule for 2022

UPDATED 4/10: A current list of county fairs happening across the Garden State for 2022. From rides, food, animals, and hot air balloons, each county fair has something unique to offer.

(Fairs are listed in geographical order from South NJ to North NJ)

New Jersey's smallest towns by population

New Jersey's least populated municipalities, according to the 2020 Census. This list excludes Pine Valley, which would have been the third-smallest with 21 residents but voted to merge into Pine Hill at the start of 2022.