Students Honored and Free Speech Defended at Board of Education Meeting


Thursday's Board of Education meeting opened with congratulations for the Clifton High School All-County First Teams - Fall Sports. Coach-of-the-Year John Pontes and athletes from the Passaic County Champions Boys' Cross Country team, Girls' Cross Country, Football, Girls' Tennis, and Boys' Soccer were all honored for their hard work and devotion to their sports.

Four students earned PBSIS awards and Miguel Ruiz, from Woodrow Wilson Middle School, had his artwork chosen as a wrap for his school's book vending machine.

February's Students of the Month were also recognized for their impressive achievements: Freshman Rashel De La Cruz, Sophomore Jadrian Castro, Junior Lory Anne Cuadra, and Senior Jason Rossi.

Later in the meeting President Jim Smith said that this was his favorite part of every BOE meeting, where the room is full of positivity and celebration of student achievements.

During the public comment section of the meeting a new visitor to 745 Clifton Avenue spoke. Gregory Quinlan, the founder of the Center for Garden State Families, a Christian family advocacy group, addressed the Board. His comments, which some found objectionable, included, "My pronouns are based in reality; not made up to please some childish, irresponsible, dangerous, religious ideology." Quinlan implored the Board to find respectful ways to incorporate the state-mandated Health Standards that would not run counter to the ideas of a Christian "natural family."

Quinlan cited a study with the apparent aim of proving that same-sex behavior is not natural. He said, "The conclusion of this massive genetic study is there is no single gay gene." A careful read of this study confirmed that this was an accurate statement. The study's conclusion indicates that "Same-sex sexual behavior is influenced by not one or a few genes but many. Overlap with genetic influences on other traits provides insights into the underlying biology of same-sex sexual behavior..."

Following the public comment period, President Smith asked Board Attorney John Croot, Jr. to comment on what had transpired and he said that the Board could not interfere with the First Amendment rights of public speakers unless that speech was obscene or threatening.

The Clifton Times sent a request to the Board Attorney for further clarification of Board policy regarding Free Speech issues. This article will be updated if and when appropriate following a response.

Superintendent Dr. Robertozzi began his comments to the Board and the community by thanking the district’s School Counselors for their “constant efforts in ensuring that our students’ mental health is their top priority.” He acknowledged that it’s a very difficult job as he announced that it is School Counselors’ Week.

On behalf of the Counseling Department, Robertozzi thanked CASA (Clifton Against Substance Abuse) for hosting the “Speak Sobriety” assembly with keynote speaker Stephen Hill. Hill spoke to middle school students about reducing the stigma attached to the disease of addiction.

School 9 held a midyear PBSIS rockstar-themed pep rally, celebrating R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Students and staff had fun competing against each other in “Minute to Win It” style games with a week of no homework and dress down days as the prizes. On February 28th, the Special Olympics Unified Basketball teams will play at WWMS. The boys’ and girls’ teams are set for a 3:30 start in what should be a wonderful event.

Robertozzi closed his comments by reiterating what the Board Attorney had said regarding the First Amendment. "I don't agree with everything everybody says up there but I will fight to protect your right to say it."

The Board of Education passed a resolution reading, in part, “Whereas Black Resistance is this year’s national theme and takes a look at how African Americans have fought repression from America’s earliest days; whereas African Americans have contributed significantly to the economic, cultural, spiritual, and political development of the country…the Clifton Board of Education proclaims February 2023 Black History Month…”

If you would like to watch the meeting, you can do so HERE.

The next Board of Education meeting is on Thursday, March 2 at 7 pm. Meetings are held at the BOE building at 745 Clifton Avenue. Parking and the entrance are in the rear; the meeting room is downstairs in the basement.

Photo gallery courtesy of Clifton Public Schools.

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