There has been a great deal of discussion and spirited debate in New Jersey about whether or not it’s appropriate to teach sex education in Garden State schools.

Ashley Koning, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, said a just-released Rutgers-Eagleton poll finds a large majority of state residents “are in favor of this kind of content being taught when it comes to middle and high school — 71% favor it in middle school, 88% of New Jerseyans favor it in high school.”

“New Jerseyans are, however, split when it comes to teaching it in elementary school, 46% favor it, versus 51% who oppose it.”

Koning said an emphasis on “age appropriateness in questioning did not make much difference on this issue in terms of how respondents felt.

Teacher reading out to students in the library
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Should sex ed be standardized?

The state Department of Education has repeatedly stated how sex education will be taught is up to each individual school district, but Koning said the survey finds a lot of people don’t agree with that.

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“New Jerseyans actually think for the most part it should be standardized, almost two thirds of New Jerseyans belive the content of health and sexual education in courses should be the same throughout the state, that’s 63%,” she said.

The poll found 33% of state residents think each district should be allowed to decide the content of their courses.

She also said on the opt out question, “60% of New Jerseyans think parents should have the option to opt-out their child out of these types of courses, 37% think that every student should have to take them.”

Koning noted 70% of parents and guardians say parents should have the ability to opt out, versus 65% of non parents.

Partisan differences

She said the survey found stark partisan differences on the issue of sex education, especially when it comes to teaching elementary school students.

“A majority of Democrats favor it, just over half of independents do not and … 83% of Republicans say they do not favor teaching it in elementary school.”

The poll finds 55% of Republicans oppose teaching sex education in middle school, while 70% support teaching it in high school, and 98% of Democrats and 87% of independents support high school sex ed.

Koning said this issue continues to be discussed by candidates running for political office New Jersey.

“New Jerseyans very much favor having sex ed being taught in schools and in fact a solid majority favor having it be standardized throughout the entire state, and which side of the aisle this will help remains to be seen.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,006 adults contacted by live interviewers on landlines and cell phones from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8, 2022. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

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