MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WJLA) — A group of families is suing the Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent and the school board over the Maryland school system’s LGBTQ book policy.
The parents are suing to have the right to opt out of LGTBQ-themed books, and they argue some of the school system’s books are age-inappropriate.
Montgomery County public schools graduate Max Guttman said he supports the school system’s new policy, which instructs teachers to use LGBTQ+ lessons and texts with all students.
“I wasn't out as trans in high school,” Guttman said. “But struggled a lot with being different. I was really excited to hear that MCPS is doing what's right for families and for our students to say, ‘Hey, you’re not somebody who is dangerous for just living.”
This year, the school system told Montgomery County families:
“MCPS expects all classrooms to be inclusive and safe spaces for students, including those who identify as LGBTQ+ or have family members in the LGBTQ+ community. A broad representation of personal characteristics within curricular or instructional materials promotes this desired outcome. Therefore, as with all curriculum resources, there is an expectation that teachers utilize these inclusive lessons and texts with all students.
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. 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.”
“It is it is an extreme approach as we detail in our complaint,” said Will Haun.
Huan is senior counsel at the Becket fund for religious liberty, which is representing Muslim and Christian families in challenging MCPS’s book policy in court.
“Our clients represent families from all across Montgomery County with diverse religious faiths,” said Haun. “And while they have differences on those issues, they share one thing in common, which is the right of parents to direct their children's religious upbringing and their education, especially when it comes to sensitive issues, like a person's identity, their child's own identity.”
Haun continues: “What this goes to is that despite any differences of faith, all parents agree that they have the right to direct their children's religious upbringing, and they have the right to direct their children's education when it comes to sensitive issues. The school is supposed to support them in that, and, unfortunately, Montgomery County has taken an approach here that says, ‘No, we're going to cut the parents out on these most sensitive issues.’ It’s inconsistent with their own policies, with Maryland law and, most of all, the U.S. Constitution.”
Some of the books named in the lawsuit include: “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy named Penelope,” “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” and “Pride Puppy!”
Educator Jan Guttman said she would like the school system’s book policy to stay in place.
“As a parent, educator, to opt out, you can't cherry-pick who's in your community,” Guttman said. “We have LGBTQ educators in Montgomery County schools. We have LGBTQ students in Montgomery County schools. We have staff members, we have rainbow families, and reading a bunch of books that have two parents – a male and a female – didn’t change who Max was as a kid. And, so I don’t think reading a book that’s got two dads is going to phase any kid.”
“I’ve been really, really proud of MCPS for holding strong on that,” Max Guttman said, referring to the school system's book policy.
Montgomery County Public Schools system officials declined to comment due to pending litigation, but the school system confirmed the book policy is still in effect.
When reached for comment on the lawsuit, a spokesperson for Gov. Wes Moore issued the following statement:
"Governor Moore has been very clear, in Maryland we don’t ban books — we pass legislation dedicated to making this state a safer, more inclusive home for everyone. As a father, the governor knows the duty of protecting our children. As a leader, he knows the importance of teaching our children love and acceptance rather than hate—which will help lower the alarmingly high suicide rate we see in our young LGBTQ population. The Moore-Miller Administration will continue to do everything possible to make Maryland a more welcoming home for all Marylanders."