Three families filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday morning demanding the courts block Montgomery County Public Schools from using LGBTQ+ inclusive materials without allowing parents the choice to opt their students out.
The district added six LGBTQ+ inclusive books to its supplemental curriculum for pre-K through fifth grade in January, with one new book being added for each grade level. In March, MCPS revised its policy regarding the use of these materials, saying families should not expect to receive prior notice when their student engages with these materials.
The parents’ 47-page complaint alleges that the school district has violated their First Amendment right to “shape their children’s religious education” by not letting parents control their students’ exposure to LGBTQ+ topics.
MCPS parents Tamer Mahmoud and Enas Barakat, Jeff and Svitlana Roman and Chris and Melissa Persak filed the suit against the MCPS superintendent and school board, demanding a jury trial. They are represented by attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty located in Washington, D.C., as well as from the Mehigan Law Group in Virginia.
Local school officials have been firm in their stated commitment to creating a safe environment for LGBTQ+ students within MCPS. In a memorandum to be read at a school board meeting Thursday recognizing June 2023 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Superintendent Monifa McKnight wrote:
“Montgomery County Public Schools is committed to a safe and inclusive school environment where all students are engaged in learning with appropriate instructional materials and are active participants in the school community because they feel accepted and valued.”
County officials and other residents have also made a point to show support for the local LGBTQ+ community.
In a press release published Wednesday, the plaintiffs’ attorneys claim the materials “promote controversial ideology around transgenderism” and are “age-inappropriate or inconsistent with [their clients’] religious beliefs and sound science.”
Some parents have protested the inclusion of LGBTQ+ materials at recent school board meetings. At a board meeting in late March, board member Lynne Harris and student board member Arvin Kim doubled down on the district’s commitment to reflecting diversity in its curriculum.
“We cannot opt out of diversity and inclusion,” Kim said. “Let me be clear: Diversity is a necessity to a comprehensive education, so inclusion must stay.”
In their complaint, the plaintiffs asked the court to issue an order stating that MCPS’ refusal to allow an opt-out is a violation of state and federal law. The complaint also asks for damages to be awarded for the cost incurred by parents in “being forced to pursue other educational opportunities for their children.”
When asked for comment on the lawsuit, MCPS spokesperson Jessica Baxter wrote: “We cannot comment on pending litigation.”