Protesters gather outside Montgomery County Board of Education headquarters on June 27 to demand the district allow an opt-out from LGBTQ+ inclusive storybooks being read in school. Credit: Em Espey

So many Montgomery County families were opting their elementary students out of classroom discussions on LGBTQ+ inclusive storybooks that accommodating them created “significant disruptions” before the school district ended the opt-out, legal documents reveal.

The volume of opt-out requests placed an increasingly heavy burden on teachers and ran contrary to the school district’s policies on inclusivity, according to attorneys for the school board. Recently filed court documents give new insight into the Board of Education’s arguments against the lawsuit filed by several parents over the no-opt-out policy.

The six plaintiffs in the case cite Montgomery County Public Schools’ Guidelines for Respecting Religious Diversity, asserting that the guidelines require the school district to allow an opt-out on religious grounds. The school district pushed back, citing language within the same guidelines indicating an opt-out is never guaranteed and that “if such requests become too frequent or too burdensome, the school may refuse to accommodate the requests.”

According to the school board, the volume of opt-out requests had become too burdensome.

The school board recently doubled down on this commitment to its inclusive curriculum, reiterating in a two-page document that it will not allow parents to opt students out of LGBTQ+ inclusive books.

The six storybooks at the center of the debate were first introduced into the MCPS supplemental curriculum in January 2023. Since MCPS clarified in March that it would not allow parents to opt students out of interacting with such materials, the books have been the subject of protests, petitions and much public testimony in front of the school board. The federal lawsuit in question was filed by six Montgomery County plaintiffs in May.


On June 12, plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a preliminary motion asking the court to force MCPS to honor the opt-out for the unfixed period of time until the legal battle’s resolution. A month later, attorneys for the school board filed a 38-page response, plus six exhibits and a statement from the school district’s K-12 curriculum expert.

After the books were introduced, the school district began receiving an increasing number of parental requests to have students excused from the classroom when such books are read, according to court records. Many of these requests were not explicitly religious in nature, defense attorneys assert, writing that some parents believed the books are not age-appropriate and teach students about sex.

MCPS has consistently emphasized the rigorous vetting process all materials undergo before being approved for classroom use.


A statement filed on behalf of an MCPS curriculum expert gives deeper insight into the volume of pushback the school district received over its use of the LGBTQ+ inclusive storybooks.

Niki Hazel serves as the school district’s associate superintendent overseeing curriculum and instructional programs. According to Hazel’s statement, central office staff met with a small group of school principals in March, where they learned that teachers were struggling to accommodate a growing number of opt-out requests without “causing significant disruptions to the classroom environment and undermining MCPS’s educational mission.”

Hazel cited “high student absenteeism” as a chief concern. Her statement reveals that in some cases the school district received requests from parents asking to prevent dozens of students within a single elementary school from reading inclusive books. She suggested that this became increasingly infeasible. Not only were teachers required to track and accommodate the requests, but other instructors were impacted by having to “spend time in multiple classrooms each day” in order to respect the accommodations.


When asked for comment on Hazel’s statement, MCPS communications director Chris Cram cited the school district’s recent policy clarification document and said it would be “be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation.”

Attorneys from Becket Law, the firm representing the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Thursday, the school board is scheduled to hold its next business meeting. Although the curriculum is not up for discussion per the agenda, families are expected to gather outside once more to demand an opt-out.


Next Monday morning, Montgomery County Council of PTAs leader Laura Stewart and school board member Julie Yang (Dist. 3) have been invited to join the District 15 Democratic Caucus for a conversation regarding the opt-out policy. According to Stewart, Yang will provide further insight into the school district’s curriculum guidelines and their implementation.