A federal court has rejected a request by religious parents who sought to opt their children out of their Maryland school district’s LGBT curriculum.
The Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland previously held a policy to give notice to parents and allow them to opt their children out of instruction involving matters of sexuality. Earlier this year, the school district reversed its opt-out policy, prompting a legal challenge (pdf) from a pair of Muslim parents, a pair of Catholic parents, and a group representing a variety of additional religious denominations.
The parents are currently challenging the school district’s curriculum rules on First Amendment grounds, citing the free exercise of religion clause of the constitutional amendment. Some of the parents represented in the complaint have children in the second grade.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Deborah Boardman issued a decision (pdf) not to grant a preliminary injunction to the parents as they pursue legal efforts to reinstate the school district’s opt-out on LGBT-related instruction. Judge Boardman, an appointee of President Joe Biden, wrote that “the plaintiffs’ asserted due process right to direct their children’s upbringing by opting out of a public-school curriculum that conflicts with their religious views is not a fundamental right.”
Judge Boardman determined not to grant the preliminary injunction, concluding that the parents were not likely to succeed on the merits in their overall challenge of the school district’s decision to end its opt-out policy.
A preliminary injunction would have allowed the parents to opt their children out of the LGBT-themed instruction when the school district returns to sessions on Aug. 28 and would have kept that opt-out option in place until the case is fully decided. Thursday’s ruling means that Montgomery County Public Schools will be able to introduce LGBT-related materials in their classrooms without needing to give notice to parents and without having to honor the requests of parents to exclude their children from those controversial classroom topics.
Parents Planning Appeal
Eric Baxter, a lawyer representing the religious parents, indicated they are planning an appeal after Judge Boardman’s ruling on Thursday.
“With the new school year beginning, the case is on the fast track to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Mr. Baxter, who works with the religious liberty legal advocacy group Becket Law.
According to their complaint, one LGBT-themed book in the Montgomery County school district invites three- and four-year-olds to identify objects they may find at an LGBT pride parade, including such items as an “intersex [flag],” a “[drag] queen,” “leather,” “underwear,” and depictions of “Marsha P. Johnson,” an LGBT activist who engaged in prostitution.
Another book, being taught to fifth graders in the school district, is called “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope,” and is accompanied by classroom instructions that teachers should advocate a “child-knows-best” approach in scenarios where a child may seek to change their gender. Further classroom instruction states that if students insists that you “can’t be a boy if [you were] born a girl” or that sex depends on biological factors and can be determined by one’s body parts, teachers should tell students: “When we are born, people make a guess about our gender and label us ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ based on our body parts. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re wrong. Our body parts do not decide our gender. Our gender comes from inside—we might feel different than what people tell us we are. We know ourselves best.”
In a series of posts on the X, Mr. Baxter argued that the school district’s decision opt-out policy decision was inconsistent with Maryland’s own laws and that its opt-out policies aren’t even applied consistently within the school district.
“In March—contrary to state law & in violation of the Board’s own policies—the School Board said it would no longer notify parents or allow opt-outs for elementary kids, even while the right of high school students to opt-out of the same material in sex-ed would be preserved,” Mr. Baxter wrote.
“The Board’s own elementary school principals protested the policy arguing that the books are age-inappropriate and dismissive of students’ religious beliefs, wrongly present ideological beliefs as fact, and improperly encourage teachers to discuss students’ romantic feelings,” Mr. Baxter added.
NTD News reached out to Montgomery County Public Schools for comment but did not receive a response by the time this article was published.