Protesters swarm outside school board headquarters for the second time in June to protest the school district's policy regarding LGBTQ+ inclusive storybooks in school. Credit: Em Espey

Beneath a downpour of rain and intermittent rumbles of thunder, hundreds gathered outside Montgomery County Public School headquarters in Rockville Tuesday afternoon to protest the district’s no-opt-out policy when it comes to reading LGBTQ+ inclusive storybooks to young students in the classroom.

Later Tuesday afternoon, multiple residents testified about the curriculum policy during the school board’s public comment period. The school board itself has given no indication that it is considering changing its policy in response to the vocal backlash from some community members.

“The fact of the matter is, nobody here is against inclusivity,” MCPS parent Thed Bekele told MoCo360 at the rally. “But in the name of inclusivity, don’t bring in ideology. Don’t force us to endorse your sexuality, and don’t encourage kids to have those discussions.”

In March, the school district announced a policy revision clarifying that it would not be providing families prior notice when LGBTQ+ inclusive storybooks are read in the classroom and would not allow students to be opted out of reading such books.

Three Montgomery County families recently filed a lawsuit against the school district alleging the revised policy violates their First Amendment rights and demanding religious exemption from the storybooks. At the school board’s last meeting on June 6, hundreds gathered to protest the MCPS policy.

Despite inclement weather conditions, hundreds gathered Tuesday carrying raindrop-stained banners and chanting, “We love our children. We shall never surrender our children.”


Several MCPS parents took to the loudspeaker to reiterate their desire to opt their students out of the inclusive curriculum. When asked by one of the other speakers why they came out today, one parent responded over the loudspeaker, “Because I’m responsible to bring up my kids in the right way.”

The protest was organized by recently-founded grassroots groups called the Family Rights for Religious Freedom and the Coalition for Virtue, with additional support from the Center for American-Islamic Relations and Montgomery County Muslim Council.

A small group of around a dozen community members stood further back from the crowd carrying rainbow umbrellas and nodding along to music.  MCCPTA leader Laura Stewart told MoCo360 prior to the protest that she and others wanted to attend the rallies to ensure activities remained peaceful. She said de-escalators were also present.


Christina Clenza, parent of an MCPS student, stood in support of LGBTQ+ students and families at the protest.

“We have a very beautiful and diverse community, and it’s important that our community is represented in our curriculum,” Clenza said. “As a two-mom family, it’s really important that our kid is able to see families like hers represented in the classroom. Our experience has been that more inclusion and more understanding of different types of people actually can increase empathy and decrease bullying, harassment.”

A petition circulating online created by Stewart in support of the school district’s current policy on LGBTQ+ storybooks has amassed over 2,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning, according to Stewart.


MoCo360 reporter Ginny Bixby contributed to this article.