Pride storybooks for children in pre-K to fifth grade are at the center of a lawsuit filed by three families against the Montgomery County Board of Education and schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight.
The books range from “Pride Puppy,” a story aimed at introducing pride parades to children 3 and 4 years old, to “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope,” a story with a transgender protagonist for fifth graders.
The families — Tamer Mahmoud and Enas Barakat, Jeff and Svitlana Roman and Chris and Melissa Persak — are from Muslim and Christian faiths and all have children in the county’s public school system.
In their lawsuit, the families claimed the pride story books were age inappropriate and inconsistent with their religious beliefs and child-rearing philosophies.
The lawsuit argues that the school system is violating the families’ First Amendment religious rights, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and also violating a long-standing Maryland state law that allows parents to opt their students out of instructions of sex education and family life.
“On March 22nd of this year, the school board announced that yes, it would allow opt outs as it always has in the past. On March 23rd, it issued an email doing a complete about face, saying that no more notice will be given to parents and no opt outs will be tolerated. And, we’re not even talking about the normal sex ed topics — biology, the reproductive system. We’re talking about social issues … encouraging children to (transition), to adopt their own pronouns,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the families in the federal lawsuit.
A spokeswoman for Montgomery County Public Schools declined to comment on the lawsuit because it is pending litigation.
In a resolution, prepared for Thursday’s school board meeting, the system’s declaration of June as Pride month in country schools, states:
“The school district stands with the LGBTQ+ community and supports their experiences in a proactive manner during current times where many states have passed or are considering legislation that would severely limit LGBTQ+ youth accessibility, preventing the use of locker rooms and restrooms consistent with their gender identity, blocking transgender youth from specified sports, banning books with LGBTQ+ representation and limiting one’s ability to use chosen names and pronouns in school.”
The lawsuit alleges that “the pride storybooks promote political ideologies about family life and human sexuality that are inconsistent with sound science, common sense and the well-being of children.”
Baxter said a motion would be filed in federal court soon, following the lawsuit, asking that the court order Montgomery County Public Schools to immediately restore parental rights to opt their children out of having to read the pride story books.
Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.
© 2023 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.