The West Milford Township School District (WMTSD) has agreed to take expansive corrective action to correct information given in a mandatory training to teachers advising them to teach based on discriminatory gender stereotypes. The action comes in response to a 2018 letter from the ACLU-NJ and the national ACLU Women’s Rights Project concerning the disturbing training, and it follows an investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division on Civil Rights (DCR).
In its letter dated March 22, 2018, the ACLU-NJ asked WMTSD to immediately cease its involvement with a professional development group that instructed district employees to teach students differently based on gender-based stereotypes. The ACLU-NJ sent DCR a copy of the same letter, which prompted its own investigation and led to the signing of an assurance of voluntary compliance, in which the WMTSD has defined periods of time to provide anti-discrimination and implicit bias trainings, among other corrective actions.
“West Milford Township School District has acknowledged that teaching children based on gender stereotypes can lead to differential treatment of students,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero, who signed the agreement. “The Division on Civil Rights deserves praise for its thorough effort in responding to the alarming trainings through this agreement, which sends a clear message to every school district in New Jersey: students should be taught based on their individual needs and abilities, not stereotypes.”
According to the stipulations of the agreement, WMTSD has agreed to take corrective action on multiple fronts:
- Requesting all teachers employed in the district return any materials they received during the training
- Hosting a series of anti-discrimination trainings for all district employees within 120 days
- Ensuring every district employee take part in bias training within 120 days
- Agreeing to seek DCR approval regarding the trainers that could be contracted by the district to ensure the program complies with the LAD
- Creating criteria by which all future trainers will be chosen, which will be reviewed by DCR
- Submitting reports twice a year outlining the professional development trainings that have taken place during the previous period, until June of 2021
“Stereotypes have no place in the classroom. All school districts should be looking to evidence-based strategies to support students, not learning styles based on gender. We are happy to see that the West Milford school administrators will be taking these steps and undoing the harms of the earlier training,” said ACLU-NJ Staff Attorney Elyla Huertas.