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N.J. school forced to cover up pride mural will be the first in the state to pilot LGBTQ curriculum


Bergen County Arts & Science Charter School

Garden State Equality and Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) will be one of 12 schools in the state where students will be instructed on the political, economic, and social contributions of LGBTQ people.

Nihat Guvercin, chief executive officer of iLearn Schools, which operates BASCS, said in a statement that “the curriculum test-pilot will be an opportunity for us to become a leader in this work, to create a model for other public schools."

The New Jersey school made headlines in May, when news about a Keith Haring-inspired mural went viral.

The mural, which had a painted heart being held by two men, an image inspired by a classic drawing by the late openly gay artist Keith Haring, was vetoed by the school after protest from the landlords.

The school rents space from a Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Hackensack.

The Archdiocese of Newark said the the facts of the incident had been “grossly misrepresented," reported, but said that the Holy Trinity Church had raised some concerns related, to “symbols of sexuality that were inappropriate for the building,” although it denied that the Keith Haring heart was the concern.

Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy group that operates statewide, slammed the move as “offensive, unconscionable, and flatly unconstitutional,” adding that "this type of hate-fueled bigotry is precisely why New Jersey needs LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum to promote acceptance and understanding.”

Fuscarino was referring to a state law enacted by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in January, which required that boards of education in the state to include accurate portrayal of LGBTQ people and their contributions. The legislation will be required of all public schools in the 2020-2021 school year.

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Garden State Equality is partnering with Make It Better for Youth, a local organization that advocates for LGBTQ youth to develop the curriculum. The project will be funded with a $185,000 grant from the Braitmayer Foundation and the PSEG Foundation.