23 Attorneys General Fight for Parental Rights in LGBTQ+ Book Controversy
Recently, a battle has emerged between parents and the Montgomery County School Board. The issue revolves around the use of “LGBTQ+ inclusive” books in classrooms and whether parents should have the right to opt their children out of such instruction.
Last year, the Montgomery County School Board made a significant investment in a series of 22 LGBTQ+ inclusive books designed for pre-kindergarten and elementary school students. These books portray elementary school-age children falling in love with other children, regardless of sexual preferences. In addition, they include terms like “intersex flag,” “[drag] king,” “platform shoes,” “lip ring,” and “leather” among word lists that students can match to images. This initiative was met with resistance from some elementary school principals within the school district who found the explicit content inappropriate for young children.
However, the controversy deepened when the school board announced that parents would not be allowed to opt their children out from classes using these books. Furthermore, parents would not be notified in advance when such classes would occur. This decision sparked a legal battle, with parents from diverse faith backgrounds taking legal action to defend their right to be notified and to opt out their children from classes featuring this material.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares led a coalition of 23 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the parents in the case of Mahmoud v. McKnight. This lawsuit pits Maryland parents against the Montgomery County School Board, with Miyares arguing that the school board’s actions have violated both Maryland state law and federal law. Under Maryland law, there is an opt-out provision allowing parents to excuse their children from sex education courses or lectures. Approximately half of U.S. states also require parents to be notified when their children will receive sex education, including Maryland. However, the school board’s decision appeared to override these provisions.
Miyares also cites Supreme Court cases supporting parents’ right to direct the education and upbringing of their children. The legal challenge is further intensified by the “strict scrutiny test,” which is applied to governmental bodies when plaintiffs claim that the government is infringing on their First Amendment rights. Miyares contends that the school board’s actions do not withstand this legal test.
The Montgomery County School Board maintains that inclusivity is an essential part of education and should not be optional for students. However, this stance is being questioned by parents and attorneys general who believe that parental rights should not be compromised.
This legal battle reflects the broader debate over the role of parents in their children’s education, especially when it comes to sensitive subjects like sex education and LGBTQ+ inclusivity. The outcome of this case could set a precedent for parental rights and the limits of school board authority in such matters.