Muslim group decries Maryland school district for blocking parental opt-outs

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Muslim group decries Maryland school district for blocking parental opt-outs

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A prominent Muslim advocacy group is demanding that Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland reinstate parental opt-outs for gay and transgender content after the school district said it would no longer accept such requests.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has collected over 400 signatures in an online petition urging Maryland’s largest school district allow parents to opt their children out of lessons with sexually explicit content and notify parents when such coursework is being used.

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Last month, the school district announced that it would no longer accept opt-outs for “inclusive books” and that it expected each classroom to be “inclusive and safe spaces for students, including those who identify as LGBTQ+ or have family members in the LGBTQ+ community.”

“As is standard practice, when planning for instruction teachers/schools are encouraged to utilize a variety of resources to continue to promote an inclusive environment as outlined in the MCPS Core Values and Board Policy,” the district said. “Students and families may not choose to opt out of engaging with any instructional materials, other than ‘Family Life and Human Sexuality Unit of Instruction’ which is specifically permitted by Maryland law. As such, teachers will not send home letters to inform families when inclusive books are read in the future.”

The CAIR petition says the school district is “undermining” the state law on the parental notice and opt-out and urged the district to reinstate the option.

“By introducing sexually-themed lessons and materials as part of the school curriculum without advance parental notice, an opt-out option or another reasonable religious accommodation, MCPS is violating the rights of parents and guardians, and undermining Maryland state law, which requires parents or guardians to have the option to remove their children from ‘Family Life and Human Sexuality’ content,” the petition says.

“Parents and guardians entrust their children to the school system with the expectation that these rights are respected and recognized. Schools should respect their authority by restoring the option to opt their children out of reading sexually-themed content or participating in sexually-themed lessons and discussions, without any adverse consequences.”

In response to an inquiry from the Washington Examiner, Montgomery County Public Schools simply provided the same statement that was shared with the district’s families last month. The portion that said parents could opt out of the “Family Life and Human Sexuality Unit of Instruction” was placed in italics.

The petition to the school district by the prominent Muslim advocacy group, which has been known to support liberal politicians, has aligned the organization with prominent conservative parental rights activists.

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Alex Nester, an investigative fellow for the parent activist organization Parents Defending Education, told the Washington Examiner that the school district’s policy “obviously pushes parents away.”

“Most voters support parental rights in schools,” Nester said. “It’s really a nonpartisan issue. And yet, administrators like those in Montgomery County Public Schools increasingly create barriers to parental involvement, like taking away a parent’s ability to opt their child out of lessons they deem inappropriate.”

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