Thursday, June 20, 2019

Homophobic BOE Trustee Refuses to Resign, Faces Ethics Complaint

BOE Trustee Frances Cogelja has (rightfully) come under fire for her misguided and homophobic emailed remarks to Acting Superintendent of Schools Rosemary Marks regarding a state law requiring public schools (middle and high schools) to provide instruction on the "political, economic, and social contributions" of persons with disabilities and the LGBTQ community in society.

Source: Putting Kids First for Hackensack BOE Facebook
This law took effect January 31, 2019.  In an email dated February 5, 2019, Cogelja contends that she finds the law "disturbing and frankly shocking."  She goes on to state "Everywhere I turn, this alternate lifestyle narrative is being shoved done [sic] our children's throats.  Where does it end???"  Her comments are as misguided as they are homophobic.

The state law requires that the "political, economic, and social contributions" of persons with disabilites and the LGBT community be recognized and taught.  We are talking about history lessons.  We are talking about having discussions to recognize the sacrifices and achievements of those such as Marsha Johnson, Harvey Milk, and Edith Windsor in advancing the rights of the LGBTQ community.  This is akin to teaching students who Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman were.  Should we not teach students about slavery, the Civil War, or the civil rights movement?

Cogelja has "fear for where we are headed as a nation."  Does Cogelja fear that by recognizing the LGBTQ movement and the community's fight for equality teachers will somehow put the crazy notion in students' minds that no one is any no less of a person, or member of this society, because of who they love?  Much like the lessons that no one is any less of a person because of the color of their skin or the god that they worship?  Heaven forbid!  It sounds like an awful place (collective eye roll).

With more than 4% of New Jersey's adult population identifying as LGBT, and 36% of those individuals raising children, Cogelja has shown bias towards, marginalized, and excluded a measurable portion of our community and school population.  While this is appalling, I wish it was the only time she has put her foot in her mouth and shown her narrow mindedness and marginalized members of our community.

Let us not forget that when Frances Cogelja (a two-time loser of Board of Education) interviewed for an unexpired term, she expressed her displeasure with our district administration sending notices home to parents in both Spanish and English.

Cogelja has no place on the Board of Education.  She can no longer effectively and objectively serve when she has shown a track record of bias and marginalization of members of our community.  The community has come out in force showing that they agree. And today, Jason Nunnermacker (a former Trustee of the Board of Education) has filed a complaint with the School Ethics Commission seeking her removal.  If found to have cause, the School Ethics Commission can remove Cogelja from her seat as a Trustee.  Nunnermacker contends that Cogelja's remarks are in violation of state laws which:
1) "requires all Board of Education Members to "uphold and enforce all laws...pertaining to schools."
2) "make decisions in terms of the educational welfare of children and will seek to develop and maintain public schools that meet the individual needs of all children regardless of or social standing."
3) "recognize that authority rests with the board of education and will make no personal promises nor take any private action that may compromise the board."  
In a statement to HACKENSACK SCOOP, Nunnermacker states that "Trustee Cogelja's prejudicial and vile comments have no place in the School District community, the Hackensack community, and in society as a whole.  She has miserably failed the students, staff, and her constituents in which she took an oath to protect and serve.  Equally disturbing is that the current leadership of the City and the Board of Education have failed to strongly and unequivocally condemn her bigoted comments and views.  The students, staff and our City deserve far better."

Now, with a history of injecting themselves into the Board of Education, politicizing our schools, and never missing an opportunity to use their taxpayer funded campaign manager to score points with constituents, you may be asking yourself why Mayor John Labrosse, Deputy 1 Kathy Canestrino, and the rest of their puppets are remaining silent on this issue.  Why, oh why, is the Mayor not standing up for the LGBT members of his community?!?  I think it may have something to do with the fact that his campaign war chest funded Cogelja's campaign and, well.... he personally selected and recruited Cogelja to his hand picked ticket.  While we should (and are) all lobbying to have Cogelja removed, we should equally be asking if this is the type of hateful rhetoric our Mayor endorses? His new found silence is deafening!


  1. I see this is becoming quite the political football. And now the political camp that you are most opposed to is joining the fray to defend the LGBTQ community. How interesting is that.

    1. Eric, if you have followed the SCOOP you know I don’t have a “political camp” and call it only as I see it. Cogelja’s comments were reprehensible.

  2. Frances Cogelja has a right to her views. To everyone who is bashing her: please respect her first amendment right to free speech. Also, at the school board meeting she "attributed her feedback to her religion." So please also respect her first amendment right to freedom of religion. She is a member of St. Peter the Apostle church in River Edge, and if you bash her then you are bashing every member of that church!

    And shame on all of you for not vetting your candidates BEFORE voting them into office. Has anyone asked the other members of the school board whether they hate gay people? You may find that Frances Cogelja is not alone. Or you might find that she is a minority of one and therefore not much of a threat. I seriously doubt one person on one school board in the state is going to overturn state law.

    Oh yeah, and one more thing. Debate is healthy. And you can’t have good without bad, so appreciate that one person’s view can stimulate debate, and appreciate how one person’s hatred results in a greater show of love.

    1. You are sorely mistaken on a number of levels.

      First, Freedom of Speech does not mean freedom of consequence. I am a crusader for free speech and will defend everyone's right to say whatever they want.... by contrast, just because you have the right to say it does not mean you are immune from consequence. These views and rhetoric have no place on our Board of Education. Fran Cogelja and her views have no place on the Board of Education.

      No one is worried about this person or this board overturning state law. A BOARD MEMBER who has shown herself to be a homophobe has encouraged the Superintendent to VIOLATE and IGNORE state law... That is troublesome.

      As to your comments about St. Peter's.... I urge you to visit the church, speak with the priest, and the parishioners.... It is not a place of hate and homophobia (which apparently is Fran Cogelja's interpretation of her bible).

    2. Fran has no such rights as a sitting Board member. Religion should not be a factor in a public school. Her abhorrent email shows her bias against some of the students and staff in Hackensack. She took an oath and this view doesn’t uphold that.
      I personally know Father Mike of St Peter's, he does not share her hate. Also, I cannot help but wonder if the Catholic Church in Hackensack is too diverse for Fran (including gay parishioners) and that's why she goes to River Edge