Maryland Parents Sue for Right to Opt Kids Out of ‘Pride’ Storybooks
Muslim & Christian parents want alternatives to age-inappropriate books
WASHINGTON D. C. — A group of parents filed a federal lawsuit last night against the Montgomery County Board of Education for mandating storybooks that push extreme ideology regarding gender identity and sexuality. Maryland law and the School Board’s own policies require parental notice and opportunity to opt out of any instruction concerning “family life and human sexuality.” But after mandating new books that advocate pride parades, gender transitioning, and pronoun preferences for kids, the Board announced it would no longer follow the law: parental notice will not be provided, and opt-outs will not be tolerated. Becket represents Muslim and Christian parents who simply want their kids to have alternatives to storybooks that are age-inappropriate or inconsistent with their religious beliefs and sound science.
The new “inclusivity” books were announced last fall for students in pre-K through eighth grade. But rather than focusing on basic principles of civility and kindness, the books promote controversial ideology around transgenderism and focus excessively on children’s romantic feelings. For example, one book tasks three- and four-year-olds to search for images from a word list that includes “intersex flag,” “drag queen,” “underwear,” “leather,” and the name of a celebrated LGBTQ activist and sex worker. Another book advocates a child-knows-best approach to gender transitioning, telling students that a decision to transition doesn’t have to “make sense”; teachers are instructed to add that doctors only “guess” when identifying a newborn’s sex anyway. The learning guide to another book about a playground same-sex romance invites school kids to share with classmates how they feel when they “don’t just ‘like’ but … ‘like like’” someone.
“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.“Forced, ideological discussions during story hour won’t cut it, and excluding parents will only hinder, not help, inclusivity.”
When the School Board first went public with the “pride” storybooks, it assured hundreds of concerned parents they would be notified when the books were read and could opt their children out. It repeated that assurance to parents as recently as March 22, 2023.
But the very next day, everything changed.
After announcing that the books would be mandatory for all elementary school students, one School Board member accused concerned parents that opting out their child “is just telling that kid, ‘[h]ere’s another reason to hate another person.’”
Soon after the School Board announced its intent to flout Maryland’s opt-out law, a diverse coalition of religious parents, including Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, and others, began pushing back. Despite faith differences, these parents believe the new storybooks are age-inappropriate, spiritually and emotionally damaging for kids and inconsistent with their religious beliefs and sound science. The lawsuit seeks to restore their ability to help their own children on such complex and sensitive issues.
“Like states nationwide, Maryland has long recognized that parents have the right to opt their children out of school activities that conflict with their religious beliefs or push sham science,” said Baxter. “When it comes to kids, it’s still ‘mom and dad know best.’ Schools can best help kids learn kindness by teaming up with parents, not cutting them out of the picture.”
Becket will ask the Court to immediately block the Board’s “no notice, no opt-out” policy.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.