By Thomas Robertson
Parents cannot opt their children out of Montgomery County Public Schools lessons involving books with LGBTQ characters for the time being, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
Three families are suing the school board over its decision not to notify parents when such books would be read and not to allow them to opt their kids out of those lessons. The families say the no-opt-out policy violates their and their children’s rights under the First Amendment, the parents’ substantive due process rights under the 14th Amendment and Maryland law.
As part of the suit, the families requested a preliminary injunction that would immediately require the school board to give them notice and an ability to opt out of the book readings as the suit plays out. A U.S. District Court judge in Maryland ruled Thursday the families did not meet the requirements for an injunction.
“Because a constitutional violation is not likely or imminent, it follows that the plaintiffs are not likely to suffer imminent irreparable harm, and the balance of the equities and the public interest favor denying an injunction to avoid undermining the School Board’s legitimate interests in the no-opt-out policy,” U.S. District Judge Deborah Boardman said in her ruling.
The three families have attached seven books to their complaint, including “Pride Puppy” and “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding.”
According to the judge’s ruling Thursday, “Pride Puppy” chronicles a family’s visit to a Pride parade, while “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” tells the story of a girl who is worried that her soon-to-be-married uncle will not spend time with her anymore, but her uncle’s boyfriend befriends her and wins her trust.
The parents will appeal the ruling, their lawyers said.
“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,” Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in the statement. “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.”
In response to the ruling, the school system said in a statement that it remains committed to cultivating an inclusive and welcoming learning environment. MCPS said it will continue “to adhere to our responsibility to include instructional materials that reflect the diversity of the local and global community.”
Students in Montgomery County head back to class Monday. Even though the families’ request for an injunction was denied, the lawsuit itself will still be heard in court before a final ruling is issued.
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