Schools should choose students’ books, not parents


Photo courtesy of moco360

Due to the addition of six LGBTQ+ inclusive books such as “Born Ready” to the elementary school curriculum and lack of warning to parents when reading these texts, a group of parents is suing MCPS.

By Leah Kreisler, Sports Editor

Lawsuits regarding curriculum and books aren’t typical in Montgomery County, Maryland given its liberal leaning population. And yet in late May of 2023, a group of parents filed a federal lawsuit against the Montgomery County Public School system (MCPS) over the use of LGBTQ+ inclusive books in the elementary school curriculum and the recent inability of parents to opt their children out of reading these materials.

This lawsuit has the potential to change the way MCPS English classes choose books, by allowing students and their parents to “opt out” of reading certain assigned books, a decision that could have disastrous consequences on our society.

Under Maryland Education Code § 7-455, parents can opt-out their children from sex education and family life lessons. In MCPS this means parents are able to decline to have their children participate in the Family Life and Human Sexuality curriculum. In January of 2023, MCPS added six LGBTQ+ inclusive books to its educational program for pre-k through fifth grade. This was created as a part of a county wide initiative to ensure all schools provide a safe environment for all students. In response, many parents began to protest and request that their children not be exposed to these books which they argued “promote controversial ideology around transgenderism” and are “age-inappropriate or inconsistent with [many families’] religious beliefs and sound science”, according to the lawsuit filing.

On March 23, 2023, MCPS announced that families may not “choose to opt out of engaging with any instructional materials, other than those having to do with ‘Family Life and Human Secuality Unit’ instruction.” In addition, MCPS announced that families should not expect prior notice when their students read these materials.

On May 23, 2023, a group of parents sued MCPS in federal court arguing that the school district violated their First Amendment right to “shape their children’s religious education” (freedom of religion) by not allowing the parents to “control their students’ exposure to LGBTQ+ topics.” The plaintiffs asked the court to issue an order that the school district’s refusal to allow families to opt out of reading certain books violates state and federal law. Additionally, the plaintiffs asked to be awarded damages for the cost of “being forced to pursue other educational opportunities for their children.”

While allowing families to opt out of books may not seem as harmful as outright banning them, this action comes with its own peril. Students of all ages pay attention to their parents’ actions and words, whether either party is aware of it. When parents opt their child out of reading a book that all of their peers are reading, it fosters the idea that there is something inherently wrong with the concepts in those books.

As a public school system, MCPS is responsible for ensuring all students feel safe and comfortable in the school environment. This begins by educating each and every student on people different from them. Families are entitled to their own beliefs and opinions but in an ever changing and growing world such as ours, it is vital that everyone understands and accepts one another. That is why the school system includes these books in the English curriculum. As SMOB Arvin Kim eloquently stated, “We cannot opt out of diversity and inclusion. Let me be clear: Diversity is a necessity to a comprehensive education, so inclusion must stay.”

Allowing parents to choose what books their students do and do not read and nitpick whether or not their children learn certain topics will further the extreme political divide in this country. Allowing parents to make these choices in public schools– institutions that constitutionally cannot promote religious opinions– undermines the assumption inherent to democracy of an informed population. It is the very purpose of public schools to ensure each and every citizen enjoys a full and multifaceted education so that they are able to be the most well informed constituent they can be. Let schools do what they do best: teach.