Police relocate HiTOPS protestors from middle school

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Two protesters who held signs aloft protesting the HiTOPS program at the Princeton Middle School were escorted away from the main entrance to the school as students arrived for school Jan. 11, according to Princeton Public Schools officials.

A school employee noticed the two individuals holding up the signs. The Princeton Police Department was notified. Police officers relocated them to avoid disruptions as students reported for class, school district officials said.

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HiTOPS, which is based in Princeton, is a nonprofit group that focuses on youth-centered sex education and support. It has had a long-term partnership with the public school that is intended to affirm the students and also to fulfill the state’s LGBTQ disabilities law and the state’s diversity and inclusion law, officials said.

Although the HiTOPS program came under scrutiny by school district officials in the wake of a Project Veritas online video in September 2023, school district officials subsequently decided to maintain the relationship with the nonprofit group.

The Project Veritas video focused on allegedly questionable strategies used by HiTOPS to reach Princeton Middle School students, bypassing parents.

The Project Veritas video alleged that HiTOPS circumvented parental permission by incorporating lesson plans into courses that did not allow for parents to “opt-out” their children.

In Project Veritas’ edited, undercover video with HiTOPS Executive Director Lisa Shelby and health educator Hannah Wiers, the duo said parents can “opt-out” their children from a health class, but not from the school district’s Pathways to Racial Literacy classes.

The Pathways to Racial Literacy course description for sixth-grade students encourages “conversations about race, racism and other forms of discrimination that are personal and vulnerable,” according to the school district’s website at www.princetonk12.org.

The course touches on several “pathways,” including the Identity Pathway, which is how HiTOPS reached the students. It helps them to develop their own identities, discover others’ identities and encourages students to embrace not only their own individuality, but those of their peers as well, according to the website.

School district officials subsequently met with HiTOPS about three lessons to be taught in the Pathways to Racial Literacy course. The lessons are required by state law, and it is not possible to opt-out of them, officials said.

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