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Maryland Parents Ask Judge to Allow Students to Avoid LGBTQ+ Books

Maryland Parents Ask Judge to Allow Students to Avoid LGBTQ+ Books

Montgomery County Maryland Parent holding a restore opt-out in MCPS sign

The parents say that if their children have to read books about or by LGBTQ+ people, that would violate their rights to religious freedom.

A group of Muslim and Christian parents in Maryland asked a federal judge Wednesday to block the Montgomery County school district, the state’s largest school system, from requiring students to read books by and about LGBTQ+ people. They claim in their lawsuit that having their children learn about queer things without the option to opt out violates parents’ religious rights.

This issue involves books in the school system’s English Language Arts supplemental program. Recently, the system just outside Washington, D.C., included LGBTQ+ themes in its curriculum and ended an opt-out option, TheWashington Postreports.

During arguments in the U.S. District Court for Maryland, complaining parents, through attorneys, said books with LGBTQ+ themes should not be required reading for their children.

In Love, Violet, a girl ponders how she can make a Valentine’s Day card for another girl in her class for whom she has developed feelings. In My Rainbow, a mom makes a bright wig for her transgender daughter.

In their complaint, the parents accuse Montgomery County of violating a state law that requires an opt-out option for topics of gender and sexuality.

The school system, however, views the state law differently. In the policy referred to by the parents, a health education opt-out option is explicitly permitted. Opting out of the current program is not allowed since the new books are part of the language arts curriculum, the school’s position stated.

According to school officials, reading books about and by a diverse group of people, including LGBTQ+ individuals, is not sex ed.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Eric Baxter, argued before a federal judge Wednesday that classroom discussions that promote questions about sexuality and gender identity violate the parents’ religious beliefs.

Alan Schoenfeld, a Montgomery County schools attorney, says that exposing students to these ideas does not violate the Constitution. Schoenfeld asserts that the plaintiffs did not prove that teachers were instructed to tell students what to believe in the books. In his view, revoking the opt-outs did not discriminate against religious families specifically, he said, since they were previously granted for any reason.

The parents have asked the judge to step in before the beginning of the school year and to allow for an opt-out option.

The judge appeared skeptical of the argument that a supplementary curriculum would limit parents’ ability to pass on their faith to their children.

“If you’re a parent … you can still espouse your religious views,” Judge Deborah Boardman said.

She indicated that she would decide by August 28, when the school year starts.

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