Last updated on December 12th, 2023 at 08:09 am
In a federal court hearing, attorneys representing over 300 parents, primarily from Catholic, Muslim, and Ethiopian Orthodox communities in Montgomery County, Maryland, argued for the right to opt their children out of school reading materials that promote homosexuality and transgenderism. The case, Mahmoud v. McKnight, was expedited by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, indicating its priority. The parents, represented by attorney Eric Baxter of the law firm Becket, asserted that schools should not push instruction on gender and sexuality without notifying parents. They sued the Montgomery County Board of Education on May 24, challenging the changes to parental notification and opt-out policies adopted on May 1.
Under the new rule, the school district no longer notifies parents about reading materials promoting homosexuality, transgenderism, and gender ideology. Additionally, parents are no longer allowed to opt out of such coursework. Attorney William Haun, a senior counsel at Becket, emphasized the importance of parental involvement, especially in elementary school, and urged the court to restore notice and opt-outs. Despite protests and pushback, a federal district judge ruled against the parents on Aug. 24, allowing the policy to take effect in the fall of 2023.
Haun expressed hope that the appeals court, which seemed receptive to the parents’ arguments, would restore their right to opt out. He highlighted that the parents are advocating for the same opt-outs that were available without incident during the previous school year. The case raises concerns about parents being forced to choose between withdrawing their children from public school or having them taught materials conflicting with their religious beliefs.
One impacted family, the Morrisons, shared their experience of having pro-homosexual and transgender materials read to their 10-year-old daughter with Down syndrome and attention deficit disorder, causing confusion. Despite the ruling in August, Haun noted that the appeals court’s openness to the parents’ arguments and the expedited hearing indicate a potential for a ruling in the next couple of months. He emphasized the national significance of the case, suggesting that allowing such policies to persist could signal a shift in the longstanding partnership between parents and public schools in favor of an ideological agenda. Currently, 47 states still require opt-outs or opt-ins for teaching sexuality and gender family issues, reflecting a national consensus. Montgomery County’s unique restrictions, specifically regarding certain books, underscore the broader implications of the case.