- Montgomery County Public Schools is no longer allowing parents to opt their children out of gender identity and sexual orientation instruction, according to a March email.
- Parents protested the decision at a Tuesday school board meeting, saying the lessons violate their religious beliefs, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “It’s not that, we’re not [anti-LGBTQ], we’re 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,” Allie Altobelli, a Montgomery County Public Schools parent, told the DCNF.
Maryland parents are pushing back against a school board that is refusing to let them opt their child out of lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation.
In an effort to promote “inclusive” classrooms, Montgomery County Public Schools alerted parents in a March 23 email that they would no longer be notifying parents of gender identity lessons through letters, and that parents would be unable to opt their children out of any instruction, excluding a sexual education class. More than 70 parents showed up to the Montgomery County School Board meeting on Tuesday, saying such lessons violate their religious beliefs and that they have a right to have a say in their child’s education, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“None of us have asked for the books to be removed. None of us,” Allie Altobelli, a Montgomery County Public Schools parent, told the DCNF. “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.”
In November 2022, the school district unveiled a list of LGBTQ-inclusive books that would be implemented in elementary school classrooms, according to a school presentation. In pre-kindergarten, students would read “Pride Puppy,” a story of a family and their child celebrating Pride Day, and in kindergarten students would read “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” a book about same-sex marriage.
Under the new school policy, parents won’t be able to opt their children out of such lessons and readings that aren’t age appropriate, Laura Wright, a Montgomery County Public Schools parent, told the DCNF.
“My child, you know, he’s gonna be reading ‘My Rainbow’ next year [in second grade],” Wright told the DCNF. “It’s a book about a transgender kid. 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.”
It is standard practice for teachers to include a “variety of resources” to foster an inclusive environment, the school said in its email. Though unable to remove their children from gender identity lessons, parents are able to opt-out of the “Family Life and Human Sexuality Unit of Instruction,” a health class taught to students in fifth grade.
“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 email read. “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.”
At the meeting, parents held signs that said “we do not co-parent with the government” and “believe in parents to love all others,” Lindsey Smith, the chapter chair of Montgomery County Moms for Liberty, a grassroots group of parents, told the DCNF. Until an opt-out option is given, parents are going to continue to protest at school board meetings and work with local faith groups to push back, Smith told the DCNF.
“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 told the DCNF. “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.” (RELATED: Muslim Community Revolts Against ‘Sexually Explicit’ Books In Schools, Shuts Down Board Meeting)
The national chapter of Moms for Liberty is preparing to take legal action against the school board if it will not reverse its decision, Smith told the DCNF.
The push for the ability to opt children out of such lessons is not because parents are against the LGBTQ community, but because they want their children to be taught age-appropriate lessons, Altobelli told the DCNF.
“It’s not that, we’re not [anti-LGBTQ], we’re anti-right now,” Altobelli told the DCNF. “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.”
Montgomery County Public Schools did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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