Hackensack school counselor Randy Stamm speaking at the school board’s June 17, 2019 meeting about remarks a board trustee made about LGBT education. Terrence T. McDonald, North Jersey
Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez are joining a widening group of Democrats taking aim at the Hackensack school trustee who said she is “disgusted” by New Jersey’s new law requiring that schools teach LGBT history.
In a joint statement issued Monday, the Democratic senators called school board member Frances Cogelja’s comments discriminatory and hurtful and said her remarks “do not represent New Jersey values.”
“Our LGBTQ community is essential to the fabric of our state’s identity as a warm and inclusive place to live,” the senators said. “We must be united in the goal of teaching New Jersey’s children the history of the LGBTQ community and the incredible contributions it continues to have on our state.”
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The statement from Booker, a 2020 presidential hopeful, and Menendez comes three days after the Democratic lawmakers who represent Hackensack in Trenton called for Cogelja’s resignation. Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday said Cogelja’s remarks “do not represent our values of inclusion and understanding.”
Cogelja has been at the center of a firestorm ignited two weeks ago when her political rivals released emails she wrote in February to Hackensack’s acting schools superintendent that blasted efforts to teach LGBT history to students. Cogelja said in the emails that she found the new requirement, signed into law by Murphy in January, “disturbing and shocking.”
Cogelja has attributed her comments to her faith, saying at the June 17 Hackensack school board meeting, “It was never my intention to disparage any person who has a different sexual orientation from my own.”
She also said she will “never” resign. Her three-year term started in 2018.
Officials calling for Cogelja’s resignation were joined Monday by Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco and a group of nearly two dozen faith leaders and organizations, including the Bergen County chapter of the NAACP and the New Jersey Education Association, who signed a letter released Monday afternoon by LGBT group Garden State Equality. The letter, addressed to Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse, the City Council and the Board of Education, urged both governing bodies to pass resolutions calling on Cogelja to resign.
Garden State Equality is urging people to attend Tuesday’s Hackensack City Council meeting to protest Cogelja’s comments.
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