Parents' rights advocacy groups say emails show MCPS leaders concerned about class books, 'opt out' policy

The debate over parental rights continues within Montgomery County Public Schools. In a new development, parents' rights advocacy groups say they have obtained emails showing that school leaders expressed concerns over not allowing parents to opt their children out of reading certain books with LGBTQ themes.

The Family Rights for Religious Freedom and Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) obtained the emails through a public records request. They contain messages from a working group of elementary school principals to MCPS going back to November 2022 where questions were raised about both the books and not allowing parents to opt their kids out.

One email by principals warned of "concerns that some of the books are not appropriate for the intended age group and not appropriate for all young students" and others cautioned not allowing parents to opt out of gay-themed material would cause "significant concern by some parents about ‘indoctrination’ or ‘hidden agendas.’"

"These documents clearly show that there was deep division within the school system about the appropriateness of the content that was being introduced and which students should be exposed to it," said Zainab Chaudhry, director of the Maryland Council of American Islamic Relations. 

For weeks protests and demonstrations have dominated Montgomery County school board meetings by parents who say they — not the schools — should decide when and if their elementary school children should read books dealing with sexuality.

"You can see that not only did we have reservations about what was being taught, and the discussions being led but so did the principals in Montgomery County Public Schools," said Wael Elkoshairi with Family Rights for Religious Freedom. "All of those concerns were ignored as we have been ignored for the last three months now going on four months." 

But opponents of the opt-out say the parent protests are anti-LGBTQ, even though demonstrators deny that.

"This is just a carefully crafted polite way of furthering their anti-LBGTQ agenda. They know enough not to come out and say it, that’s their intention," said Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School alumni Oliver Walton. "We’ve made great progress but I am familiar with the fear and hysteria, so education should be the antidote to that."

"It’s not an LBGTQ curriculum. It’s a book that supports the standards of our curriculum which have been benchmarked and they’ve been deemed 100% age appropriate," parent Mark Eckstein said. "These are five-minute reading read-alouds. The children aren’t ‘studying’ this." 

FOX 5 reached out today to Montgomery County Public Schools for comment and to verify the emails but our emails were returned.  

Demonstrators say they are not giving up their effort and intend to be back out protesting during the next school board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 24.