At an August 8 press conference, regional CAIR leader Zainab Chaudry highlights key takeaways from the internal MCPS memorandum her office received as respondent to a public information request. Credit: Em Espey

This article was updated at 6:33 p.m. to include comment from Montgomery County Education Association President Jennifer Martin.

A leader of Montgomery County Public Schools’ principals union expressed concerns about the district’s rollout of its new LGBTQ+ inclusive storybooks in a memorandum to central office staff last autumn, months before the option to remove students from class during discussions of these books was revoked in March.

In his memorandum, Cloverly Principal Mike Bayewitz said he was writing in his capacity as Elementary Chapter chair of the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals’ Elementary Chapter (MCAAP) and on behalf of the chapter members.

“In this internal memo … MCPS elementary school principals objected to age-inappropriate content in the books in question, anti-religious bias in discussion guides, the lack of teacher training, and inconsistent training from district offices as far back as November 2022,” Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) regional director Zainab Chaudry said at a Tuesday press conference outside school board headquarters in Rockville.

While both of the other two MCPS-affiliated unions have openly voiced support for the district’s approach to its LGBTQ+ inclusive school materials, the principals union has not taken a public stance.

CAIR published the contents of the email and attached memorandum sent by Bayewitz to several top school officials on Nov. 22, 2022. CAIR recently received a copy of the letter among more than 130 pages of internal documents from the school district in response to a Maryland Public Information Act request.


In his memorandum, Bayewitz outlined several concerns about the school district’s use of LGBTQ+ books and materials, including concerns about whether staff had been sufficiently trained on how to utilize the books and whether some of the materials are age-appropriate. Other concerns raised by Bayewitz include:

  • Contradictory messaging about the purpose of the materials
  • Whether the materials are considered mandatory or optional
  • The existence or lack of an opt-out option from the materials
  • The amount of stakeholder input utilized in selecting the materials
  • Designating a point person to handle ongoing communications about the materials
  • “Mixed messaging and/or questionable content” in supportive documents related to the materials

When reached for comment on Bayewitz’s letter, MCAAP president Christine Handy wrote to MoCo360 that its purpose was to “honor our member’s voices and to be partners with MCPS by providing feedback.” She also said Bayewitz was not “the sole author or contributor to this document,” adding that MCAAP supports its members in the development of white papers, typically described as concise, persuasive guides on complex issues.

Handy declined to comment further given the pending litigation against the school district over the opt-out policy. She did not respond to questions about whether other elementary school principals were aware of or agreed with Bayewitz’s letter when it was sent.


MoCo360 reached out directly to Bayewitz for comment on Monday and has not received a response.

Asked for comment on the letter, MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram responded via email:

“Out of respect for and the integrity of pending litigation before the U.S. District Court of Maryland, MCPS cannot comment further at this time.”


He cited a recent two-page information sheet reaffirming the school district’s commitment to its inclusive curriculum.

Cram recently told MoCo360 the school district has “no numerical data” to quantify the number of times an MCPS student was removed from class during discussion of one of the LGBTQ+ storybooks prior to that accommodation being discontinued. However, the school district has alleged in legal filings that the increasing volume of opt-out requests created “significant disruptions” for schools and ran contrary to the district’s inclusive policies, prompting the removal of the option in March.

CAIR and Family Rights for Religious Freedom (FRRF) representatives gathered Tuesday to publicize Bayewitz’s memorandum, which they printed across several large posterboards.


FRRF leader and local parent Wael Elkoshairi said the letter confirms “what we suspected since the beginning,” adding that “not only did we have reservations… but so did the principals.” He called upon school and county officials to take the recent series of pro-opt-out protests and petitions seriously and “bring us into the discussion.”

Local parent and veteran LGBTQ+ advocate Mark Eckstein expressed strong skepticism related to Bayewitz’s concerns, including about the age-appropriateness of LGBTQ+ storybooks.

“I would trust our highly trained [teachers and] curriculum department … to provide those parameters of what is appropriate,” he said. “These teachers are well-paid and very qualified.”


He said he hopes MCAAP will “at minimum” issue a general statement in support of the district’s inclusive curriculum. He also pointed out that since Bayewitz’s letter was sent last November, the district has made “tons of trainings” available to teachers and educators regarding curriculum and cultural competency.

“I’ve been involved in hundreds of training opportunities with community partnerships, and then MCPS also has a variety of resources available,” he said. “Just from my work, I know lots of people have taken advantage of it, but if you have a principal that’s not into the work, they might not send their staff.”

Over the past school year, 27 MCPS schools requested and received professional development specifically focused on cultural sensitivity training, according to data from Cram. This past June, he said school leadership teams engaged in two days of professional development and were “expected to bring the learning back to their school.” According to Cram, this training opportunity included modules with titles such as:

  • Building Community with LGBTQ+ Affirming Picture Books
  • Cultivating LGBTQ+ Affirming Spaces
  • Affirming LGBTQIA+ Identities: Books and Beyond
  • LGBQIA+ Inclusivity
  • LGBTQ+ Inclusive Picture Books: The Why, What and How
  • LGBTQ+ Inclusive Picture Books: Cultivating Affirming Environments with Literature

Chaudry told MoCo360 the school district’s decision not to give families the option to opt their students out of inclusive books “doesn’t keep any kids safe” and that, on the contrary, students “need to be taught that people are different.”

“We shouldn’t teach that intentions are bad if someone chooses not to participate in a classroom discussion. You don’t have to be hurt,” she said. “I wear a head scarf, but I’m not going to expect others to wear it to show they support me.”

Silver Spring resident Oliver Walton, 45, came to the Tuesday press event to offer a different perspective on the memorandum. A lifelong county resident who graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High in 1996, Walton said his journey through MCPS as a gay student was far from easy.


“No one should ever have to experience what I did. I don’t want any kid in this day and age to feel like they’re alone because of who they are,” he said. “The purpose of education is to learn, and it’s insane to me that learning gay kids exist is ever considered harmful or subversive.”

Asked specifically about the memorandum published by CAIR, Walton said he wasn’t surprised to hear some principals may have expressed concerns and agreed that cultural competency training is important to help teachers navigate classroom discussions.

“I see this whole push for an opt-out as a polite way for some people to express their bigotry,” he said. “I would hope our leaders have the resolve to see this through and stand behind inclusivity.”

Silver Spring resident Oliver Walton said when he heard about the press conference, he threw one of his husband’s shirts, grabbed the pride flag off their front porch and headed to school board headquarters to stand in solidarity with the school district’s LGBTQ+ inclusive books. He said he knows many local gay parents and LGBTQ+ students who are worried about the repercussions of the ongoing opt-out debate. Credit: Em Espey

Both the local teachers’ union and service employees’ union have issued strong statements in support of the school district’s approach to using LGBTQ+ inclusive books.

At a June 28 board meeting, Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) president Jennifer Martin vocalized her union’s opposition to allowing an opt-out accommodation, citing a Trevor Project survey that found students who feel affirmed in their gender identity at school experience a lower rate of suicidal ideation. In an email statement sent to MoCo360, Martin reiterated the teachers unions’ commitment to the LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum, writing:

“All students deserve to see themselves and their families reflected in the texts they read in school. Students also need to know about the many ways people express their identities and learn that there is not just one way to be a family. Public schools, like our larger society, must be a safe and welcoming place for all, where everyone can be respected and embraced—rather than shamed, silenced, or treated as invisible—because of who they are or whom they love.”


The local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to Twitter on July 2 to publish a statement in “wholehearted” support of the district’s curriculum and urging the school board to continue advocating for its LGBTQ+ students, staff and families. The union represents health care, public service and property-related employees across Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Last year, the same SEIU chapter joined over 150 organizations in signing an open letter advocating for full “inclusion, protection, and celebration” of transgender and nonbinary youth in schools nationwide, published by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

SEIU Local 500’s president Pia Morrison could not be reached for comment Tuesday about the memorandum.


At 10 a.m. on Aug. 9, a U.S. District Court judge will hear oral arguments on a motion that, if granted, would legally require the school district to reinstate the opt-out accommodation until the lawsuit’s ultimate resolution. An MCPS attorney has said it’s possible the judge will issue a ruling prior to the Aug. 28 start of the new school year.