Press Release

Religious parents ask federal appeals court to restore notice and opt-outs for Pride storybooks Muslims, Jews & Christians in Maryland ask Fourth Circuit to protect parental rights

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Man holding "Keep the Opt-Out" sign

WASHINGTON – A coalition of religious parents in Maryland were in federal appeals court today fighting for the ability to opt their children out of storybooks that push one-sided ideology regarding gender and sexuality. In Mahmoud v. McKnight, the Montgomery County Board of Education took away parental notice and opt-outs for storybooks that advocate Pride parades, gender transitioning, and pronoun preferences for kids as young as four. Becket is supporting these Muslim, Jewish, and Christian parents who are fighting to restore their ability to raise their children consistent with their faith. 

The new “inclusivity” books were announced last fall for students in pre-K through eighth grade. However, instead of focusing on basic principles of respect and kindness, the books champion controversial ideology around gender and sexuality. For example, one book tasks four-year-olds to search for images from a word list that includes “intersex flag,” “drag queen,” “underwear,” “leather,” and the name of a celebrated LGBTQ activist and sex worker. Another book advocates a child-knows-best approach to gender transitioning, telling students that a decision to transition doesn’t have to “make sense”; teachers are instructed to say doctors only “guess” when identifying a newborn’s sex anyway. The School Board revoked notice and opt-outs for these storybooks earlier this year, contrary to Maryland law and the Board’s own policies, and over the objection of their own elementary school principals. 

“Montgomery County’s decision to introduce instruction on gender and sexuality to children in elementary school violates parents’ right to control how and when their children are introduced to such sensitive matters,” said Grace Morrison, board member of Kids First, an association of parents and teachers advocating for notice and opt-outs in Montgomery County Schools. “I pray that the judges will restore the ability of parents like me to raise our children in accordance with our religious beliefs.” 

Soon after the School Board announced it would take away parental notice and opt-outs for the storybooks, a diverse coalition of religious parents, including Muslims, Jews, and Christians, sued the School Board in federal court. Despite faith differences, these parents believe the new storybooks are age-inappropriate, spiritually and emotionally damaging for kids, and inconsistent with their beliefs. After a lower court upheld the mandate, the parents asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to step in and strike down the court’s no notice, no opt-out policy. Today, these parents fought in court to restore their ability to help their own children on sensitive topics like gender identity and human sexuality. 

“Parental involvement is crucial for children, especially in elementary school. The Court should restore notice and opt-outs so parents can parent and kids can be kids,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Schools have no business pushing instruction on gender and sexuality without even notifying parents.”

A ruling from the Fourth Circuit is expected in the coming months.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.