Crucial Test Case: Maryland Parents Versus ‘Pride Storybooks’
Andrea M. Picciotti-Bayer
August 10, 2023
Oral argument was heard in federal court from a group from Montgomery County families who want public school officials to respect their right to opt their children out of the ‘inclusive’ anthology.
Parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, have had enough. Progressive ideologues captured the local public school system and thought they’d gotten away with it.
Now a group of parents from various religions have taken them to federal court, demanding that school officials respect their right to opt their children out of indoctrination in gender ideology. If ever there was a test case for people who want to protect their children from secularist dogma at odds with their religious beliefs, this is it.
In fall 2022, the Montgomery County Board of Education announced it would use “Pride Storybooks,” a collection of more than 20 new “inclusivity” books for pre-K through eighth-grade classrooms. As you might expect, every box is ticked. From Pride parades to gender transitioning and pronoun preferences, the collection is carefully curated to indoctrinate.
Let’s take a look at a few of the books, beginning with one that targets pre-K students.
Pride Puppy is the story of two women taking their children to a Pride parade, where their puppy gets lost. It asks 3- to 4-year-old readers to find images from a word list that includes “[drag] queen,” “underwear,” and “leather.”
Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope is written for fifth graders. Penelope explains to her mother, “I don’t feel like a boy. I AM a boy.” The mother agrees to tell their family “that we know. … You are a boy.”
Grandpa agrees that “gender isn’t such a big deal.” When Penelope’s brother protests, “You can’t become a boy. You have to be born one,” he’s told that “not everything needs to make sense. This is about love.”
Papa agrees that Penelope is a boy as long as Penelope will “tell me yourself.” And when Penelope tells the principal “I think like a boy. I feel like a boy. … I’m sure I’m a boy,” the teacher says: “Today, you’re my teacher.”
Teachers are directed to correct students that balk at this affront to biological reality with the following counsel:
“When we are born, people make a guess about our gender and label us ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ based on our body parts. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re wrong. Our body parts do not decide our gender. Our gender comes from inside — we might feel different than what people tell us we are. We know ourselves best.”
In Maryland, as in most states across America, parents must be notified and have the ability to opt out of classes discussing family life and human sexuality. Accordingly, Montgomery County’s School Board allows parents to opt their children out of sex-ed classes and controversial readings on related topics. At first, the School Board told parents they would be notified when books in this poisonous collection of gender ideology agitprop were going to be read and could opt their children out.
But — of course — the board didn’t mean it. It abandoned this assurance in March of this year, issuing instead a statement saying it would no longer notify parents or honor requests to opt out for anything other than the sex education unit.
That was the point at which parents’ patience snapped.
Kids First, an ethnically diverse group that includes local Muslim, Jewish and Christian parents, argued that the books are age-inappropriate and emotionally damaging for young children. (A group of more than 800 school administrators from Montgomery County agree and sent a letter to school district leaders to that effect last fall). The parents also believed the books are inconsistent with their religious beliefs, not to mention biological science. The School Board ignored the parents.
Kids First and a number of parents had no other recourse but to file a lawsuit this past May in federal court to protect their right to direct their children’s religious and intellectual education on sensitive matters regarding family life and human sexuality. Filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the suit claims that the School Board violated Maryland’s law requiring the option for parents to opt-out as well as key guarantees found in the U.S. Constitution. A federal district court heard oral argument in the case Wednesday.
Eric Baxter, Becket’s vice president and senior counsel, who argued the parents’ case on Wednesday, explained that children “are entitled to guidance from their own parents, who know and love them best, regarding how they’ll be introduced to complex issues concerning gender identity, transgenderism, and human sexuality.” He added, “Forced, ideological discussions during story hour won’t cut it, and excluding parents will only hinder, not help, inclusivity.”
Baxter is right and the law supports his clients. Under longstanding Supreme Court precedent, government schools are not “empowered … to ‘save’ a child from himself or his [religious] parents” by imposing “compulsory” education to “influence … the religious future of the child.” In a recent case the Court also reaffirmed, as an “enduring American tradition,” the “rights of parents to direct the religious upbringing of their children.”
As I say, this is a crucial test case. A legal victory will protect children from the misinformation and fantasies of gender ideology and remind school boards and administrators across the country that parents are the primary educators of their children — even when they’re inside a public school. Watch this space.