Maryland School District Denies Opt-Outs from LGBTQ Curriculum for Young Students

( – A policy introduced by the Maryland school district, which prevents parents from opting their K-5 children out of its curriculum focused on sexuality and gender identity, was upheld by a federal court decision on May 15.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit voted 2-1 to deny religious parents’ request to block the Montgomery County Public Schools Board’s policy that was issued in March 2023. Judge G. Steven Agee, who was appointed under George W. Bush’s administration, stated that the parents failed to submit sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the policy violated either their right to direct the education of their children or their right to free exercise of their religion.

Montgomery county schools have seen mounting criticism in recent years over failures to properly safeguard children. In 2020 there were 40 alleged cases of abuse or neglect of children involving Montgomery County Public Schools staff that were reported to local police or Child Protective services, leading to the termination of five employees. In January 2024, MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram confirmed that former Farquhar Middle School Principal Dr. Joel Beidleman was no longer an employee following a 2023 investigation into 20 allegations of sexual harassment and bullying since 2017.

Hundreds of parents from different religious backgrounds protested the state’s curriculum changes in June 2023. Muslims and Christians gathered outside the MCPS headquarters to show solidarity and object to the LGBTQ curriculum. Bethany Mandel, a news writer and a mother, argued that parents have a right to deal with controversial issues such as gender ideology and sexuality on their own terms.

Agee suggested that it would be up to the parents to provide sufficient evidence and a record of the circumstances surrounding the board’s decision to demonstrate conclusively any harmful effect that the challenged texts could have in schools. The judge concluded that with “scant record” available at such an “early stage” of the policy coming into effect, he had no choice but to affirm the order of the district court that denied a preliminary injunction. Books added to the K-5 curriculum now include The Pride Puppy, which instructs an audience of 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds to search for words such as “lip ring”, “leather” and “[drag] queen”. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented Christian, Jewish and Muslim parents and their concerns that the books added to the curriculum were not age-appropriate for small children.

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