Parents sue Maryland’s largest school district for not letting kids opt out of LGBT book readings

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A group of parents are suing Maryland’s largest school district that's prohibiting them from opting their children out of school curriculum that includes books celebrating LGBT pride.

The lawsuit was filed last week in the United States District for the District of Maryland against members of the Montgomery County Board of Education and Montgomery County Superintendent Monifa B. McKnight.

According to the complaint, the school district emailed parents back in March, informing them that they are barred from opting students out of classroom instruction that includes books that promote LGBT ideology. 

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“They (the parents) come from many faith backgrounds, including diverse strands of Islam and Christianity. Their concerns reflect those of thousands of other Montgomery County parents from a variety of faiths and political persuasions,” stated the lawsuit.

“They are united in the conviction that the Pride Storybooks are age-inappropriate and inconsistent with their religious beliefs and practices and their child-raising philosophies.”

One book that is now required is Pride Puppy, by Robin Stevenson and Julie McLaughlin. According to the lawsuit, the book “invites 3- and 4-year-olds to look for images of things they might find at a pride parade, including an ‘intersex [flag],’ a ‘[drag] king’ and ‘[drag] queen,’ ‘leather,’ ‘underwear,’ and an image of a celebrated LGBTQ activist and sex worker, ‘Marsha P. Johnson.’”

Another book, Born Ready by Jodie Patterson, has been designated for fifth graders and, according to the complaint, “advocates a child-knows-best approach to gender transitioning, telling students that a decision to transition doesn’t have to ‘make sense’ and that students are the best ‘teacher’ on such matters, not parents or other adults.”

The parents are being represented by Becket Law, a legal group that has successfully argued multiple religious liberty cases before the United States Supreme Court.

“Children are entitled to guidance from their own parents, who know and love them best, regarding how they’ll be introduced to complex issues concerning gender identity, transgenderism, and human sexuality,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, in a statement released last week.

“Forced, ideological discussions during story hour won’t cut it, and excluding parents will only hinder, not help inclusivity.”

In January, Montgomery County Public Schools announced that it had approved adding “a selection of LGBTQ+-inclusive texts for use in the classroom.”

“Reading stories that reflect the diversity of the school community and world encourages respect and empathy for all. As with all curriculum resources, there is an expectation that teachers use the texts as a part of instruction,” MCPS stated.

“It is important to note that using the materials is optional as it is standard practice that teachers have a choice regarding which materials to use.”

Although Maryland law says parents can opt their children out of sex education, MCPS argues that they cannot do so with these LGBT-themed books, because they are part of language arts classes, not sex-ed.

Last October, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 66% of registered voters in Maryland said it was inappropriate for teachers to discuss LGBT acceptance at the kindergarten to third-grade levels, while 56% thought it was inappropriate for fourth and fifth grade.

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