A U.S. District Court has dismissed a request from parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, who fear the indoctrination of their children and wanted the option for their children to opt out of classes involving LGBTQ+ themed books and discussions.
Muslim and Christian Families
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) introduced an inclusive English/Language arts curriculum for students from pre-K to 5th grade last fall.
This move stirred controversy, drawing criticism from both school principals and parents.
On May 24, three families from Muslim and Christian backgrounds filed a lawsuit against the district, arguing that the curriculum went against their religious freedom by not allowing parents to excuse their children from the new material.
MCPS does allow parents to opt their children out of specific segments of its Family Life and Human Sexuality classes. Still, this option does not extend to the English/Language Arts curriculum books.
The recent court decision is a preliminary injunction in response to parents’ request for an opt-out before classes resume on August 28. The final decision will come after the judge hears the full case.
The legal group representing the parents, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, plans to appeal the decision.
They say that parents should have the authority to decide how and when their children are educated in line with their religious beliefs.
After the court ruling, MCPS restated its commitment to creating an inclusive learning environment where all students and their families can see themselves represented in the curriculum.
David Fishback, an advocate for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Maryland, viewed the court’s decision as a victory.
David highlighted the potential positive impact of this inclusive curriculum on the lives of children facing challenges due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to MCPS, the 2022-23 curriculum includes books that aim to honor “the perspectives and experiences of students, staff, and community members who are part of the LGBTQ+ community,.”
For instance, one book titled “Pride Puppy!” tells the story of a family celebrating Pride Day, while another, “My Rainbow,” narrates a tale about a mother creating a rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter.
Notably, concerns about the appropriateness of these books came from school principals when the curriculum was unveiled in 2022.
Some families, citing religious beliefs, also expressed the desire to have the option of removing their children from classes using the new material.
While certain schools initially offered this option, MCPS later discontinued it. This led to heightened tensions between the school board and the concerned families.
In response, Family Rights for Religious Freedom, an Islamic-centered organization, was founded to advocate for the reinstatement of parents’ opt-out rights.
Legal Battle Continues
The organization argues that sensitive issues require careful instruction by teachers with a proper understanding of different religious perspectives.
The controversy has spurred dialogue within religious communities as well.
While some Muslim leaders signed a statement opposing policies promoting LGBTQ-centric values among children, others see the protection of LGBTQ+ rights as beneficial for their own community in the long run.
The outcome of this case will determine the direction of LGBTQ+ education in Montgomery County schools, but many families don’t plan on waiting out the trial.
As the legal battle continues, some families have chosen to withdraw their children from MCPS and enroll them in private schools.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ringo Chiu