MCPS Defends Ending Opt Out Program for Students in its Literacy Curriculum

A dozen people Thursday called on Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to allow them to remove students from classes involving human sexuality.

Beginning with the next school year, MCPS will end its opt out program if the classes concern reading literacy and other topics and not strictly a class on human growth and sexuality.

Under Maryland law, families can opt their students only out of specific classes on human growth and sexuality. Parents don’t have the right to opt out of other classes, explained Niki Hazel, association superintendent.

MCPS chose six picture books involving LGBTQ+ that will be included in the literacy classes for elementary school children, she said. These classes are designed to teach literacy standards while making every student feel included, she said, adding these picture books are not textbooks but are supplements to the lesson.

“Our goal is to have our students in all of our classes, but we are starting specifically in elementary with our literacy curriculum, learning about literacy standards,” Hazel said. “We want all our students to see themselves in these texts.”

Superintendent Monifa McKnight stressed that the literacy curriculum “is not an invasion” of family values that are taught at home.

Student Member of the Board (SMOB) Arvin Kim agreed with the curriculum. “Fundamentally, diversity is a good thing,” he said.

During the public comment session of the Board of Education (BOE) meeting Thursday, some parents said these books go against Muslim teaching.

When explaining why he thought the opt out program must be allowed for these classes, Kareen Monib told board members, “There is no disagreement when it comes to sexual norms in Islam.”

Raef Haggag, who has a daughter in an MCPS elementary school, said, “This removal of the opt-out option is wrong, it’s unacceptable, and it’s embarrassing that MCPS is taking away this right from us, which runs in contradiction to MCSP’s tradition of fostering tolerance and acceptance.”

Binnish Mustafa, who has a son in MCPS, noted, “This is not a Muslim issue. To foster and respect the religious and moral values of parents, school administrators should allow the OPT-OUT option to curriculum offerings; especially when that OPT OUT can be made without disrupting the school’s overall mission. Let not the greatest strength of MCPS, its diversity, become a source of its weakness.”

Added Zainab Chaudry, director of CAIR of Maryland. “Every child, regardless of their identity, is entitled to a safe learning environment free from hate and intimidation. We are not opposed to that.”

Earlier this week, three families filed suit against McKnight and BOE members. They believe their First Amendments rights are being violated whey they cannot opt out of a class.

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