Three families have taken legal action against the Montgomery County Board of Education and Superintendent Monifa McKnight, citing concerns over pride storybooks aimed at children from pre-K to fifth grade.
The collection of books includes titles such as “Pride Puppy,” which introduces pride parades to 3 and 4-year-olds, and “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope,” featuring a transgender protagonist for fifth graders.
The families involved in the lawsuit are Tamer Mahmoud and Enas Barakat, Jeff and Svitlana Roman, and Chris and Melissa Persak. Representing diverse Muslim and Christian faiths, these families all have children attending the county’s public school system.
Their lawsuit argues that the pride storybooks are age-inappropriate and clash with their religious beliefs and child-rearing principles. The families claim that the school system is infringing upon their First Amendment religious rights and the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, they contend that the school system is violating a longstanding Maryland state law that permits parents to opt their children out of sex education and family life instructions.
Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the families in the federal lawsuit, highlighted the sudden policy change by the school board. On March 22nd, the board stated that opt-outs would be allowed as they have been in the past. However, on March 23rd, an email was issued with a complete reversal, stating that parents would no longer be given notice or allowed to opt out. Baxter expressed concerns about the curriculum extending beyond biology and reproductive systems, venturing into social issues and encouraging children to explore topics such as transitioning and adopting their own pronouns.
A spokesperson for Montgomery County Public Schools declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
The school district’s resolution, prepared for an upcoming school board meeting, declares June as Pride month in county schools. The resolution emphasizes the district’s support for the LGBTQ+ community and acknowledges the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth in light of recent legislation across various states that restricts their rights, such as access to gender-affirming facilities, participation in specific sports, and the availability of books representing LGBTQ+ individuals. It also highlights the importance of using chosen names and pronouns in schools.
According to the lawsuit, the pride storybooks are accused of promoting political ideologies about family life and human sexuality that contradict scientific evidence, common sense, and the well-being of children.
Eric Baxter stated that a motion would soon be filed in federal court seeking an immediate restoration of parental rights to opt their children out of reading the pride storybooks.