Press Release

Religious parents in Maryland will appeal to opt kids out of inappropriate storybooks Federal court greenlights sex and gender storybook mandate

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Protestors at the Mahmoud v. McKnight district court rally, holding signs that say "Keep the Opt-Out" and "Let Parents Parent"

WASHINGTON – Contrary to Maryland and Montgomery County regulations, a federal court today ruled that parents have no right to be notified when their elementary-school children will be read storybooks that address complex and sensitive issues regarding gender and human sexuality. In Mahmoud v. McKnight, the Montgomery County Board of Education removed state-mandated parental notice and opt-outs rights for storybooks that advocate pride parades, gender transitioning, and pronoun preferences for kids as young as pre-kindergarten. Becket represents parents of diverse faiths who challenged the mandate in court earlier this month. After today’s ruling, these religious parents will quickly ask a federal appeals court to protect their ability to guide their children’s education in accordance with their faith. 

The new “inclusivity” books were announced last fall for students in pre-K through fifth 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 three and 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. Other books focus on children’s romantic feelings.  

The School Board revoked notice and opt-outs for these storybooks earlier this year, contrary to Maryland law and the Board’s policies. Even the Board’s elementary school principals protested that the books were age-inappropriate, dismissive of students’ religious beliefs, and present as facts information that is not factual. 

“Parents know and love their children best; that’s why all kids deserve to have their parents help them understand issues like gender identity and sexuality,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “The School Board’s decision to cut parents out of these discussions flies in the face of parental freedom, childhood innocence, and basic human decency.” 

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, Catholics, Jews, and Protestants, among others, sued the School Board in federal court. Despite faith differences, these parents are united in their view that the LGBTQ storybooks are age-inappropriate, spiritually and emotionally damaging for kids and inconsistent with their religious beliefs. These parents fought in court earlier this month seeking to restore their ability to help their own children on such complex issues and put a stop to the School Board’s no-notice, no opt-out policy. Today the court left the mandate in place, putting the case on a fast track to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  

“The court’s decision is an assault on children’s right to be guided by their parents on complex and sensitive issues regarding human sexuality,” said Baxter. “The School Board should let kids be kids and let parents decide how and when to best educate their own children consistent with their religious beliefs.” 

Oral argument is expected in the fall at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.