Parents with children enrolled at a Maryland school district were outraged after the district announced that it would not allow students to opt out of gender identity lessons.
In a March 23 email, the Montgomery County Public Schools informed parents that it would no longer notify them about gender identity lessons. In an effort to promote an “inclusive environment,” the district also stated that children could not be opted out of the curriculum.
“MCPS expects all classrooms to be inclusive and safe spaces for students, including those who identify as LGBTQ+ or have family members in the LGBTQ+ community,” the district stated. “A broad representation of personal characteristics within curricular or instructional materials promotes this desired outcome. Therefore, as with all curriculum resources, there is an expectation that teachers utilize these inclusive lessons and texts with all students.”
While children are now required to complete the gender identity lessons, they may still be removed from sexual health education, the district explained.
“As is standard practice, when planning for instruction teachers/schools are encouraged to utilize a variety of resources to continue to promote an inclusive environment as outlined in the MCPS Core Values and Board Policy,” the district continued. “Students and families may not choose to opt out of engaging with any instructional materials, other than ‘Family Life and Human Sexuality Unit of Instruction’ which is specifically permitted by Maryland law. As such, teachers will not send home letters to inform families when inclusive books are read in the future.”
In response to the notification letter, 70 parents attended the Montgomery County School Board meeting on Tuesday to speak out about the policy. Parents fought for their right to have a say in their children’s education and argued that teaching gender identity lessons violated their religious beliefs, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.
Montgomery County Public Schools parent Allie Altobelli told the DCNF, “None of us have asked for the books to be removed. None of us.”
“We are just asking for what is fair and equitable and our own constitutional right to be able to have religious freedom and opt-out of something that goes against not only my Christian beliefs, but also the Jewish religion, the Muslims. There’s so many people who are not okay with this,” Altobelli added.
Altobelli noted that she is not against the LGBT+ community but that she is “anti-right now.”
“These are like prepubescent children that haven’t even gone to sex ed. I just keep saying, I am anti-right now, because it’s not appropriate,” she said.
Another parent, Laura Wright, told the outlet that her child would be in the second grade next year, where he will be reading “My Rainbow” by DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal.
“It’s a book about a transgender kid,” Wright stated. “He’s gonna be learning words like cisgender and transgender. That’s really heavy for his age. I wonder why aren’t they also learning about depression and suicide and addictions at this age then? It’s really heavy and I’m surprised.”
A school presentation revealed that the district previously released a list of LGBT+ books that it planned to incorporate in elementary school classrooms. One of those books for pre-kindergarten, titled “Pride Puppy,” is a story about a family celebrating Pride Day. In addition, a book for kindergarteners called “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” is a story about same-sex marriage.
Lindsey Smith, the chapter chair of Montgomery County Moms for Liberty, told the news outlet that parents attended the meeting with signs that read “we do not co-parent with the government” and “believe in parents to love all others.”
Smith noted that parents plan to continue to protest until the district grants an opt-out option. If the district refuses to allow children to be removed from the lessons, Moms for Liberty is prepared to take legal action against the board, Smith stated.
“Our goal is to team up with community leaders and pastors as well as the other religious groups like the Muslim community, and the Chinese community, who have the same core beliefs and values, and just continue to get louder,” Smith said. “Loudoun County, our neighboring sister in Virginia, was very successful in doing this with the school board and so we have reached out to the people that were activists in that group and asked for their help.”
Montgomery County Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment, the DCNF reported.
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