MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. - Protesters and parents gathered outside the Montgomery County School Board building on Tuesday while board members listened to community members debate the "no opt-out" policy for certain LGBTQ+ books approved for the classroom.
Montgomery County approved a list of LGBTQ+ inclusive books for the classroom, starting as young as pre-kindergarten. The policy states that students and families cannot opt out of engaging with these instructional materials.
Some parents argue that it's important to teach children about all types of families and the differences among humans. They emphasize that providing information is not equivalent to indoctrination. However, those opposed to the policy claim that the government is overstepping parental rights. They believe that while it's acceptable to have these books taught, parents should have the ability to choose what their child is taught.
"These things should not even happen. We should all talk to one another, love one another, respect one another. It shouldn't be up to a school system to force one belief over another or tell some people what to believe and what not to believe," said Hisham Garti, Outreach Director of the Montgomery County Muslim Council.
Two weeks ago, a group of Muslim and Christian parents filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the "no opt-out" policy violates the constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. The lawsuit highlights books such as "Uncle Bobby's Wedding," which tells the story of a young girl's uncle marrying his boyfriend, and "Pride Puppy," which invites three- to four-year-olds to find things they may see at a Pride parade, including drag kings or queens, leather, and underwear.
During Tuesday's meeting, board members listened to advocates from both sides of the issue. Meanwhile, outside the building, parents and community members protested but also took the time to listen to each other's perspectives.
"Look, we aren't that different, right? We're more alike than we are different, but we have to respect each other's differences," said Laura Mitchell, a grandmother of an MCPS student. "I feel that everyone has the right to see that people are different from a very young age because they are aware and they do see it. Look back to school night; families come in with two fathers or two mothers."
No official decision or change in board policy was made during Tuesday's meeting; the board members simply listened to the community.