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Latest News in Hanover, NJ

NJ Attorney general sues Hanover school district over policy on LGBTQ students

The state Attorney General's Office has filed a civil rights complaint against the Hanover Township school district and requested an emergency court order to stop the district from implementing a policy adopted Tuesday night that would require teachers to disclose to parents the gender identity and sexual orientation of LGBTQIA+ students.The school district has, in turn, challenged the state, saying it will "vigorously defend" this policy which it says "protects parental rights and ensures the safety of a...

The state Attorney General's Office has filed a civil rights complaint against the Hanover Township school district and requested an emergency court order to stop the district from implementing a policy adopted Tuesday night that would require teachers to disclose to parents the gender identity and sexual orientation of LGBTQIA+ students.

The school district has, in turn, challenged the state, saying it will "vigorously defend" this policy which it says "protects parental rights and ensures the safety of all school children."

Schools in New Jersey are required to accept a student's preferred gender identity and pronouns without parental consent, according to the state's Law Against Discrimination and the state Department of Education's Transgender Student Guidance issued in 2018. The Attorney General's lawsuit says that the new policy adopted by Hanover Township violates state law and is in contradiction with its own existing transgender student policies.

The policy, titled "Parental Notification of Material Circumstances," requires teachers in the 1,200-student K-8 school district to notify parents if they are aware of "any facts or circumstances that may have a material impact" on a student’s well being because of a range of factors, such as bullying, depression, self-harm, athletic and academic performance and gender identity.

Local:Hanover school board favors policy to notify parents of student's LGBTQ identity

The state's lawsuit only challenges inclusion of language in the policy on gender identity, LGBTQ+ and transitioning students which it says violates state law by discriminating against the protected categories of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We will always stand up for the LGBTQ+ community here in New Jersey and look forward to presenting our arguments in court in this matter,” said Attorney General Platkin in a statement Wednesday. "We are extremely proud of the contributions LGBTQ+ students make to our classrooms and our communities, and we remain committed to protecting them from discrimination in our schools.”

The state's lawsuit against the Hanover Township Public schools and its board of education asks the Morris County Superior Court for an order of "temporary restraint" to enjoin or stop the district's implementation of the policy, while its legal challenge plays out.

Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted his support for the Attorney General's move, saying "Hanover Township Board of Education's new policy requiring staff to 'out' LGBTQ students to their parents violates the rights of our students — jeopardizing their well-being and mental health."

Members of the public at a board meeting in April questioned the legality of the policy and whether it violated the state's law against discrimination. A teacher of 26 years in the Hanover Township district asked board members if it was legal for the new policy to require faculty to report any concerning student behavior as it relates to a list of issues mentioned in the policy, ranging from academic performance to gender identity, and what the consequences would be if they did not do so. The policy was not in violation of any state law, board attorney Matthew Giacobbe told the speakers.

Polarizing battles in NJ

The lawsuit comes at a time when many school boards across the state and nation are already polarized over issues relating to LGBTQIA+ students, resulting in conflicts within boards and in schools as right-wing and conservative activists clash with progressive and liberal groups over school library books, display of the "pride" flag in classrooms, and how far the state can go in mandating what is taught in schools about gender and sexual orientation.

This has resulted in calls to ban books that discuss gender identity, and bitter fights in school board meetings over implementing the Murphy administration's 2020 standards for health and comprehensive education in school districts which moved lessons on gender stereotyping and sexual behavior to earlier grades than in previous years.

About a 100 community members, donned with red shirts and pride flags, came out to express frustration with the board for questioning standards set by the state and their comments about LGBTQ families in an April board meeting at Westwood Regional High school. Other school boards in the state have been the center of similar demonstrations for and against including discussions about LGBTQ people.

"We are pleased to see that Attorney General Platkin has taken action and is recognizing the importance of the rights of students in our districts that are under attack by a radical right agenda," said Michael Gottesman, director of the New Jersey Public Education Coalition, a grassroots group that organizes to counter other groups that it says are eroding trust in public education by accusing the state of "indoctrinating" school children with its curriculum standards.

Gottesman said members of his organization met with staffers in the governor's office and the Attorney General's Office on April 27 to discuss a trend of school board members elected on "parental rights" platforms working to reject the state's health standards in elementary and middle school.

Republican state Senator Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), who advocated to repeal the sex-education piece of the state department of education's 2020 health and physical education standards, was not immediately available to comment on the Attorney General's lawsuit.

Nearby:$50M Morris County lab devoted to 'cutting-edge' cookies is NJ's latest innovation

Hanover Township district responds

The policy does not unlawfully discriminate against "any student on the basis of any protected status whatsoever," the Hanover Township school district said in a statement released Wednesday night. "Simply put, it requires that staff members' say something to the parents and appropriate school administrators," if they see something that could affect their children and to keep parents "fully informed" about "all material issues that could impact their children."

The policy is "expressly targeting students for disparate treatment" says the Attorney General's legal complaint, because it includes state-protected characteristics of “sexual orientation; transitioning; gender identity or expression," in the “facts or circumstances” that school staff must disclose to a student’s parents and to administrators in connection with the student’s safety.

Unidentified members of the public had alerted the Division of Civil Rights in the Attorney General's Office about the policy when it was being proposed, which led to the lawsuit.

The legal complaint can be found here: AG Platkin Announces Filing of Civil Rights Complaint and Application Seeking to Immediately Prohibit Implementation of Hanover Township Board of Education’s LGBTQ+ Parental Notification Policy - New Jersey Office of Attorney General (njoag.gov)

QuickChek opens new store off Route 10 in East Hanover

QuickChek opened a new store and gas station just off Route 10 East in East Hanover on Tuesday.The 5,869-square-foot store will be open 24 hours a day, complete with a gas station, fresh-brewed coffee, all-day breakfast, lunch and dinner, including made-to-order subs, wraps and salads.There's a no-fee ATM and 61 parking spaces, plus parking for two oversized vehicles and outdoor seating for 16 customers. The store is located at 235 Route 10 in East Hanover.Customers will be able to treat themselves to pump...

QuickChek opened a new store and gas station just off Route 10 East in East Hanover on Tuesday.

The 5,869-square-foot store will be open 24 hours a day, complete with a gas station, fresh-brewed coffee, all-day breakfast, lunch and dinner, including made-to-order subs, wraps and salads.

There's a no-fee ATM and 61 parking spaces, plus parking for two oversized vehicles and outdoor seating for 16 customers. The store is located at 235 Route 10 in East Hanover.

Customers will be able to treat themselves to pumpkin spice-flavored coffee for a limited time. You'll also be able to shop for household items like milk, juice and eggs.

There’s hot and iced coffee, and all-day breakfast items, including breakfast sandwiches with English muffins or waffles.

Rewards for customers

To celebrate the grand opening, QuickChek is offering one free cup of coffee per day for seven days starting Aug. 15 to QuickChek Rewards members at the East Hanover store.

East Hanover shoppers new to the QuickChek Rewards program get up to four weeks of special offers. Week one includes offers a free fountain drink or coffee at any size. Week two includes offers a $1 breakfast sandwich. Week three includes offers 50% off any six-inch sub. Week four includes offers 50% off any fresh snack item.

According to a press release, the store is expected to bring in between 35 to 45 new local jobs.

Related:It's not your imagination. Convenience stores are multiplying in NJ, with no end in sight

Russ Mensch, a spokesperson for QuickChek, said plans are in the works for a QuickChek in Scotch Plains towards the last quarter of 2023. There are 145 QuickChek stores in New Jersey.

QuickChek, being open 24 hours and serving freshly prepared food all day and night, helps serve people with diverse lifestyles and routines, he said.

"Nine to five doesn’t exist anymore," said Mensch. "Anyone, such as an ambulance driver getting off shift at four in the morning, can get the same sandwich as the person customizing their sandwich at four in the afternoon.”

As of late July, competitor Chester Heights, Pa.-based Wawa has 283 stores in New Jersey, mostly concentrated in South Jersey. Spokesperson Lori Bruce estimated that another nine Wawa's will open in the state this year.

But Wawa — home of the Hoagiefest and a new pizza menu — has a long way to go before it could in the convenience center wars of Morris County, where QuickChek is still king.

Each to its own

While it may seem like a lot of stores on paper, it’s really not, explained Arturo Osorio Fernandez, a management and global business professor at Rutgers University.

“If placed on a map there is a geographical pattern of service-overlap on highways and heavy traffic areas,” he said in May. “Yet you will also see that they have no real overlap. Each brand serves a different area. And there are even areas that are not served by either of them.”

Wawa “is considered to be an NJ store by locals,” Fernandez said, despite being based out of Pennsylvania, “because of its largest presence in the area.”

With QuickChek, he said, “the brand is linked to green practices and transparency, [t]hus presenting itself as a more environmentally conscious business that seeks to provide freshness and convenience.”

Daniel Munoz covers business, consumer affairs, labor and the economy for NorthJersey.com and The Record.

Hanover Park baseball storms past Rutherford to win sectional championship

EAST HANOVER − Nothing was going to get the 12 seniors of Hanover Park baseball off the field.Nothing but the incoming lightning, that is.An abbreviated celebration on the field spilled into the school's auxiliary gym, and pictures were taken under a basketball hoop instead of near home plate. Regardless of the change in scenery, the Hornets enjoyed one more victory at home on Friday, a 10-0 win over Rutherford in the North 2, Group 2 baseball sectional final.Despite the big margin, it was actually s...

EAST HANOVER − Nothing was going to get the 12 seniors of Hanover Park baseball off the field.

Nothing but the incoming lightning, that is.

An abbreviated celebration on the field spilled into the school's auxiliary gym, and pictures were taken under a basketball hoop instead of near home plate. Regardless of the change in scenery, the Hornets enjoyed one more victory at home on Friday, a 10-0 win over Rutherford in the North 2, Group 2 baseball sectional final.

Despite the big margin, it was actually small ball that put Hanover Park ahead early on.

In each of the first two innings, the Hornets had a leadoff hitter reach base, get sacrificed over to second base and come around to score. Mark Ruccio scored on a sacrifice fly for the first run, while Jack Massarano scored on a wild pitch that gave the Hornets a 2-0 lead through two innings.

"We work on bunting all the time," coach Doug Wear said. "We will bring out the machine and gas it up to about 85 or 90 and just work on bunts. People don't like to bunt anymore, but we knew if we were gonna beat a team like Rutherford, we would need to do the little things and do them right."

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Hanover Park broke through, batting around to score five runs and drive Rutherford starter Sam Kelly out of the game. With one run home and the bases loaded with two away, consecutive two-RBI doubles by Alex Cheringal and Joe LoPinto gave the Hornets a 7-0 cushion.

LoPinto did the rest on the mound, coming in during the second inning to relieve starter Toby Smith on a low pitch limit. LoPinto threw 66 pitches across 3? innings, getting Hanover Park through the fifth inning with a commanding 9-0 advantage.

What it means

It's the second title in three years for Hanover Park. But despite returning 12 seniors, the preseason outlook was not great after losing last spring in the sectional final.

The Hornets entered the season without some impactful players, but the current group of upperclassmen made an impact as the team went undefeated in the NJAC Liberty division and did not lose a single home game all season.

As for what is next, Hanover Park moves on to Monday's Group 2 semifinals to face Pascack Hills with a trip to the next weekend's Group 2 final at stake. In their final game on their home field Friday, Wear reflected upon the impact of his senior class.

"They're part of an era," Wear said. "It's the last game they'll ever play on this field so when they ever come back here, they'll know they left with some hardware."

Key play

Rutherford threatened all afternoon, leaving 13 runners on base without being to plate any of them. The greatest threat came with the bases loaded in the top of the third inning, trailing 2-0. Junior Cole Goumas laced a ball to right-center field but senior Charlie Rafanello was playing the shift and was able to slide for an attempt at the catch.

"My glove is really old, so I couldn't feel if it was in my glove at first," Rafanello said. "When I saw that it was there, I got hyped."

Rafanello's sliding grab kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard and preserved the Hanover Park lead. Rutherford did not have another batter reach third base again until the sixth inning.

"It's so euphoric," Rafanello said. "It's an individual moment and you don't know at the time how big it's going to be in terms of the entire game."

Game ball

Senior Joe LoPinto was going to be handed the ball on Friday, but got it a little earlier than expected as Smith was unable to fend off fatigue. A Canisius commit, LoPinto faced Rutherford for the first time since last season's sectional semifinals, when he struck out 11 and held the Bulldogs to two runs on seven hits in a complete game.

LoPinto stabilized the game and and let the Hanover Park offense stand up, allowing four hits in 3? innings, striking out four and keeping Rutherford off the board to earn the win in relief.

"Joe is our strike thrower," Wear said. "He threw in the Group 2 final for us two years ago as a sophomore and we have been fortunate to ride him and Toby as a 1-2 punch for three years now."

LoPinto also laced a two-run double to cap off a five-run inning for the Hornets to put the game out of reach in his final home game. LoPinto was quick to rank this game atop his accomplishments in Hanover Park.

"It's gotta be No. 1," LoPinto said. "I've been playing with some of these guys since we were 6 years old, so to do this with them, there's nothing like it."

They said it

"It's very emotional. There's no words. It's hard to explain what these guys mean to me." − Hanover Park senior Joe LoPinto.

"Our team is so bonded. We don't leave the diamond and stop being friends. We're best friends everywhere. It's great to win anywhere, but it's special to do it in your home town with your best friends." − Hanover Park senior Charlie Rafanello.

New Jersey Attorney General sues school board for policy that allegedly targets LGBTQ+ students

HANOVER, New Jersey (WABC) -- The New Jersey Attorney General is seeking to prohibit a policy enacted by a school board that he said targets LGBTQ students.The Parental Notice of Material Circumstances went into effect this week in the Hanover school district and requires school staff members to notify school administrators and parents if they are made aware of "any facts or circumstances that may have a material impact on a student's physical or mental health and social or emotional well-being," according to a release from ...

HANOVER, New Jersey (WABC) -- The New Jersey Attorney General is seeking to prohibit a policy enacted by a school board that he said targets LGBTQ students.

The Parental Notice of Material Circumstances went into effect this week in the Hanover school district and requires school staff members to notify school administrators and parents if they are made aware of "any facts or circumstances that may have a material impact on a student's physical or mental health and social or emotional well-being," according to a release from the Hanover Township Board of Education.

Faculty would have to alert administrators or parents about a long list of issues including sexual activity, sexuality, sexual orientation, transitioning, gener identity or expression.

AG Matthew Platkin said the policy could lead to discrimination against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and target transgendered students.

The complaint also asserts that the parental notification policy could have a disparate impact on LGBTQ+ youth, because it, "requires school staff to 'out' LGBTQ+ youth to their parents," according to a release from the AG's office.

"We will always stand up for the LGBTQ+ community here in New Jersey and look forward to presenting our arguments in court in this matter," said Platkin. "We are extremely proud of the contributions LGBTQ+ students make to our classrooms and our communities, and we remain committed to protecting them from discrimination in our schools."

Parents also voiced their concerns about the new policy.

"I think that the policy that was voted on by the board of education is unbelievably discriminatory against LGBTQ+ children and it takes away a safe haven kids might need," parent Stephanie Eagan said.

One of New Jersey's leading LGBTQ organizations is calling the policy danergous because it could target students based on sexual orientation.

"Anti-LGBTQ policies passed by school boards are not just harmful, they are insidious manifestations of discrimination and bigotry that perpetuate oppression," Christian Fuscarino with Garden State Equality said.

The AG has filed a civil rights complaint and a motion in Superior Court requesting to maintain status quo while litigation is pending.

This injunction would not prevent school staff from reporting illegal activity or notifying parents about concerns unrelated to characteristics protected under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

The Hanover Board of Education said the AG made "erroneous assertions" and the policy does not "unlawfully discriminate against students on basis on basis of any protected status," according to a statement released by the board.

ALSO READ | Woman reported missing on Mother's Day found dead in Bayonne

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Judge questions Hanover’s parental rights policy as district, state face off in court

The state Attorney General's Office and a Morris County school board remained at odds Wednesday over a controversial policy that critics say would violate the privacy of LGBTQ+ students, with a judge expressing concerns that the language was too vague.Deputy Attorney General James Michael and Matthew Giacobbe, an attorney f...

The state Attorney General's Office and a Morris County school board remained at odds Wednesday over a controversial policy that critics say would violate the privacy of LGBTQ+ students, with a judge expressing concerns that the language was too vague.

Deputy Attorney General James Michael and Matthew Giacobbe, an attorney for the Hanover Township school board, continued to debate Policy 8463 during an hourlong hearing in Morristown on Wednesday before state Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz.

The board introduced the measure and later revised it in the spring after Attorney General Matthew Platkin filed a lawsuit against the K-8 district, alleging the changes infringed on the rights of LGBTQ+ students.

The revised policy, now on hold, would require school staff to inform parents when their child displays behaviors or issues that "may have an adverse impact" on their health and well-being. It also says the notification "cannot be based solely on a student’s actual and/or perceived protected characteristics" under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, a statute that includes sexual orientation and gender identity among its safeguarded categories.

"Parents have a constitutional right to be involved in their children's lives," Giacobbe said Wednesday, adding that the state is trying to "tramp on that" with its lawsuit.

Minkowitz highlighted potential issues in the policy's wording. For instance, he said, saying parental notification "cannot be based solely" on protected characteristics means characteristics such as gender identity or sexual orientation can still be part of the discussion peripherally.

More:Westwood school board introduces parental rights policy: What it means

Minkowitz also said the phrase "adverse impact" is "in the eye of the beholder" when it comes to student expression. As an example, he said, a devoutly religious teacher may view a student wearing a rainbow shirt touting LGBTQ+ pride as "adverse" and inform the administration. Requiring teachers to report any perceived problem, the judge said, "invites interference in the parent/child relationship."

Giacobbe said the new policy is no different from many other district policies that require notification, such as if a staff member believes a student is being abused or neglected. As caregivers for their students during the day, teachers make subjective assessments all the time that are permitted under the Law Against Discrimination, he said.

Michael, the deputy attorney general, noted that Hanover passed a policy in 2019 designed to help transgender students feel safe. He questioned the need for an update, since, he said, "There is no indication that any child in the Hanover district has been harmed by the policy."

He added that while state officials "recognize and support parental involvement," they also respect the rights of LGBTQ+ students that they believe would be harmed by the new policy.

"It's clear that this is a vulnerable population, particularly when they've been outed against their will," Michael said.

Minkowitz did not issue a ruling after Wednesday's hearing, saying he wanted to take enough time to examine the matter thoroughly. Until the case is resolved, Hanover will continue to operate under the district policy that existed before the the new guidelines were introduced in the spring.

Kyle Morel is a local reporter covering Morris and Sussex counties.

Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @KMorelNJH

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