Princeton Public Schools issues two statements about HiTOPS video

After the far-right activist group Project Veritas released a heavily edited video Wednesday in which two staff members from HiTOPS were secretly recorded talking about their programming in schools, the superintendent of the Princeton Public Schools sent an email to parents saying the school district does not condone providing sex education to students without parental consent.

The school board for the Princeton Public Schools will be reviewing the district’s relationship with HiTOPS because of the video, according to the letter that was sent to parents.

In the Project Veritas video, titled “HiTOPS Org Sneaks Sexual & LGBTQ+ Curriculum into Schools, Goal to Strip Parental Opt-Out Rights” a staff member talks about a middle school class called Pathways to Racial Literacy and says parents aren’t allowed to opt their kids out. The staff member also talks about how the organization recommends to teachers that they use Google Forms to regularly survey their students about what names and pronouns they want them to use for them.

In a Sept. 14 letter to parents, Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley says the Princeton Public Schools have had a positive working relationship with HiTOPS for many years, but that in the video that Project Veritas published, it is implied that Princeton Public Schools advocates for the work to happen without parent knowledge or consent.

“I want to be very clear- under no circumstances does Princeton Public Schools condone or employ such strategies,” reads the letter. Kelley goes on to say that the partnership with HiTOPS was intended to not only affirm our students, but to also fulfill the state;s LGBT and Disabilities Law and the Diversity and Inclusion Law. “We will continue to comply with all mandates and provide opt-outs where appropriate,” Kelley writes.

“It’s important to note that we always provide several opportunities for parents to ask questions about lessons and/or opt their child out of these learning experiences.  For example, for past elementary programming, the schools hosted parent/guardian information nights as well as provided several opportunities for caregivers to ask questions about lessons and/or opt their child out of the learning experiences,” reads Kelley’s letter to parents. “For our middle school programming, communication was shared with all parents/guardians about the three lessons students would receive: an introduction to sexual orientation and gender identity, unconscious biases, and gender roles/stereotypes, and LGBTQIA+ history. Again, it is important to note that this curriculum is required by recent changes in New Jersey law.”

Kelley then goes on to say that the district stands by its commitment to promoting trusting relationships, open communication, and “enduring partnerships” among staff, families, and the community.

“While we align with the HiTOPS mission to support LGBTQIA+ youth, we strongly disagree with how representatives of the organization allegedly encouraged bypassing parental consent,” reads the letter. “We reached out to HiTOPS this morning to gather more information. This curriculum is not scheduled to be taught at Princeton Middle School until October. In the meantime, we will convene a board committee to discuss our relationship with HiTOPS. We remain committed to our LGBTQIA+ students and the teaching of this important curriculum.”

Kelley ends her letter saying the district recognizes that the matter is sensitive and may raise concerns. “We understand the trust that you place in us to care for and educate your children,” she writes. “We take this obligation seriously and we will continue to be transparent in our communications about what is going on in your child’s classroom.”

The letter created a backlash of its own, with many parents and teachers interpreting it as not being supportive enough of LGTBQ students and issues. The letter also identified Project Veritas as a legitimate nonprofit journalism source.

A few parents who have had students at the Princeton Middle School told Planet Princeton they were informed before a HiTOPS workshop at the school that the organization would make presentations about sexual orientation and gender identity, unconscious biases and gender roles, and LGTBQ history.

The communications director for the district then released a statement to the press Friday afternoon about officials’ concerns about the video.

“We are unwavering in our support for LGBTQIA+ students and will continue to deliver these critical lessons to our students. We understand that Project Veritas’ methods are questionable and controversial.  However, this video has raised concerns about circumventing parental consent and undermines the trust that we work so hard to build with all of the families in our community,” reads the statement. “Although we recognize the excellent work that HiTOPS has done for many years in our community, our primary obligation is to our students and their families. We intend to meet with HiTOPS leadership early next week and our next steps will be guided by the outcome of that conversation.” 

3 Comments

  1. If anyone thinks Project”Veritas” is a legitimate organization, education is in serious trouble.

    1. Provided that the video doesn’t employ AI for manipulation, there may be valuable information that warrants our attention. After all, most news videos undergo some form of editing. Allowing various media outlets to oversee this process isn’t a negative. To be honest, parents might not have been aware of what was happening in the school without this incident. We appreciate PPS for issuing that letter to bring this to our attention.

  2. I don’t understand how you can see the videos PV posted and not start to question the intents of HiTops. Gender theory is a THEORY. Why is that the theory chosen to be taught to kids who aren’t even halfway to fully being developed mentally, physically, or emotionally? These are complex topics that students in college and even adults struggle to grasp. Meanwhile NJ and the rest of the country have math/reading scores coming in at 20+ year lows. Maybe we should be asking why are so many kids not getting the proper education in the courses that are crucial to the development of skills that will be used to help kids with their careers in the future? Instead we put emphasis on teaching gender theory, sexuality, and racial literacy (ironic that we’re teaching racial literacy to the same kids who are struggling to pass normal literacy). Make it make sense.

Comments are closed.