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‘No taxes for evil woke politics’: Protesters, parents clash over sex ed controversy at Princeton Middle School

Students wearing backpacks walk across a parking lot toward a brown school building.
25 Valley Road, which houses the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education and Administration offices.
Annie Rupertus / The Daily Princetonian

Tensions ran high at the first Princeton Board of Education meeting of the semester on Tuesday, Jan. 30 as public commenters debated the sex education curriculum at Princeton Middle School. Some commenters accused protesters of intimidating children after weeks of protesting against the program outside of the school.

With these events, the Princeton school district joins an intense national conversation, as gender, sexuality, and race education in public schools face mounting scrutiny. The controversy also comes amid a tumultuous period for the district after Princeton High School ex-principal Frank Chmiel ’98 was removed from his role in March of 2023, and Superintendent Dr. Carol Kelley resigned in October after outrage ensued over her decision.


Princeton Middle School works with the New Jersey non-profit organization HiTOPS to implement a sexual education curriculum. According to its website, HiTOPS is an organization “that fosters strong and healthy young people of all identities by providing inclusive and youth-informed sex education and LGBTQ+ support for young people throughout New Jersey.”

HiTOPS came under fire in September 2023 after conservative activist group Project Veritas released secretly recorded footage of HiTOPS staff. In the edited clip, HiTOPS staff members discussed entering educational materials on LGBTQ+ issues into a required class on racial literacy without parental consent. After the video release, then-superintendent Kelley sent an email to parents stating, “under no circumstances does Princeton Public Schools condone or employ such strategies.” However, in the message Kelley also confirmed they would continue their long-standing partnership with HiTOPS. 

According to Town Topics, two to three protesters have demonstrated outside Princeton Middle School every morning in the first two weeks of the spring semester, demanding reform. These protests invoked a counter-protest of ten parents in support of HiTOPS.   

The first public commenter at Tuesday’s board meeting was Thomas Perc, an LGBTQ+ parent with three children enrolled in Princeton public schools. Perc accused protesters — some of whom were present at the meeting — of intimidating children. As he ended his statement, he pointed at one attendee who he then alleged had no children in the school and accused him of intimidating children. Throughout the interaction, Perc was asked to speak to the board and refrain from addressing attendees directly. 

After the meeting, Perc told The Daily Princetonian that his 11-year-old daughter said protesters were interacting with children, asking questions such as: ”What gender are you?” and ”What do you think you are?" Students “were intimidated by these men walking up and down with signs that are targeting children,” Perc noted.

These accusations did not deter protestors present from voicing their perspectives.


Later in the meeting, Luke Alberts, a parent of two sixth graders at Princeton Middle School, and one of the protesters against HiTOPS said, “As long as [HiTOPS] remains, I will continue, and I will be in front of the school.” 

“I’m fine with LGBTQ [rights]. I’m fine with the anti-bullying message,” Alberts told the ‘Prince.’ “I am not fine with the presentation of HiTOPS, namely framing everything in the oppressor/oppressed narrative,” he said, adding that he finds such a framework to be divisive.  

During his comment, Alberts held a neon green sign which read, in part, "No taxes for evil woke politics."

At the end of his comment, President of the Board, Dafna Kendal, shared an anecdote in which a "mother of color" told that her daughter came home and "asked if she should hide" from the protesters.

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Corey Laramore, coordinator of student health and safety for Princeton Public Schools, shared that his responsibility includes ensuring protesters are granted their freedom of speech, but do not have any interaction with students. Laramore said that he has not personally seen any protesters interacting with students.

“I just saw the protesters holding signs in front of [the] Princeton Middle School walkway, where students were passing by cars pulling up for the morning drop off … not even speaking to the students, but just holding up the signs and holding them high.”

Acting Superintendent Kathie Foster shared with the ‘Prince’ that the district did receive a report that a student was approached by a protester. However, they could not confirm the allegation. Foster added that school officials had a conversation with protesters to ensure they remain on public property.   

During the meeting, Alberts addressed Perc and asked him to meet him outside to further discuss the topic, which prompted board members to ask him to refrain from addressing the attendees. After the comment, many in attendance, including board members, asked Alberts to leave. 

After the disruption, Martha Friend, a teacher at Littlebrook Elementary, made a public comment thanking the school board for trusting educators and for “knowing that educators would never allow lessons that would harm students.” She also noted that the protests are part of a larger distrust in public schools. 

Kendal told the ‘Prince’ that the protesters represent “a very small minority of our community.” 

Bridget O’Neill is a head News editor at the ‘Prince.’

Christopher Bao is an assistant News editor at the ‘Prince.’

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]

Correction: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Perc's comments during the Board of Education meeting. The ‘Prince’ regrets this error.