Federal Judge in Maryland Rules Against Parental Exemptions for LGBT School Lessons

In Montgomery County, Maryland, a federal court decision has determined that parents cannot exclude their children from school lessons that encompass LGBT content. The decision came after Montgomery County Public Schools faced a lawsuit from parents. The school district had previously withdrawn their opt-out provision due to a surge in requests from parents. The parents contended that the absence of an opt-out choice compelled them to either renounce their religious convictions or contemplate other educational avenues for their children.

However, U.S. District Judge Deborah Boardman, a nominee of President Joe Biden, articulated in her detailed 60-page judgment that the parents hadn’t sufficiently demonstrated that the policy would indoctrinate their children or coerce them to forsake or modify their religious beliefs. Judge Boardman emphasized that parents still possess the liberty to instruct their children in line with their religious tenets.

Montgomery County Public Schools, ranking among the nation’s most extensive school districts with a student population of around 160,000, initiated the inclusion of 13 new books featuring LGBT protagonists at the commencement of the 2022-23 academic year. This decision was a response to a curriculum assessment that pinpointed an absence of LGBT representation. Some of these books have been incorporated into lessons for children as young as three, eliciting concerns from parents, educators, and school heads.

A memorandum from a consortium of school principals to the district underscored potential challenges, such as the depiction of young students developing romantic feelings for peers, irrespective of their sexual orientation. The memo also highlighted that while family life education is introduced in fifth grade, books for second graders employ terms like “cisgender” and “transgender.”

The school district, in a statement, reiterated its commitment to fostering an inclusive educational environment, ensuring all students see themselves and their families mirrored in the curriculum. However, attorneys representing the plaintiffs, followers of Islam or Christianity, criticized the court’s verdict. Eric Baxter, Vice President and Senior Counsel at Becket, described the ruling as an infringement on children’s rights to be guided by their parents on intricate matters related to human sexuality.

The plaintiffs have expressed their intention to contest Judge Boardman’s decision, with oral arguments anticipated to be presented at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the forthcoming fall season.