MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Three families in Montgomery County have filed federal lawsuits after the choice to "opt out" of reading LGBTQ+ books and materials in schools came to an end.
Parents say they got an email in March stating they would no longer be able to have their children be exempt from that part of the curriculum. On Thursday, approximately 100 parents protested outside of the Board of Education headquarters in Rockville.
Wael Alkashari, the head of the Parents Action Committee, has two children in the school district. He says he wants to make it clear that this isn't about being anti-LGBTQ+.
"We are not anti this lifestyle," he said. "We respect them, they have the right to exist amongst us, to live as they please."
Instead, Alhahsari argues it's about a prent's right to choose what their children are exposed to and at what age.
Binnish Mustafa has three children in the Montgomery County School District and agrees.
"If an animal rights activist wants to opt their child out of biology class, he or she should be able to do that," she said. "Same goes for Native Americans. If Native Americans don’t want to sit through a class talking about the great traits of Christopher Columbus, they should be able to opt out."
William Haun of Becket Religious Liberties is part of the firm that represents the three families filing the lawsuit. He says he hopes by next school year, they'll have the choice to opt out of the curriculum again.
On the other side, Rachel Cornwell is a pastor and mom of 11-year old Evan, a middle school student in Montgomery County who transitioned when he was five years old. Cornwell and her son both agree that books helped them talk more.
"When he first transitioned in elementary school, he felt like he was the only trans kid in his school and he was lonely," Cornwell said. "So for us, having books and stories that represented the transgender experience was helpful to know there were other kids out there like Evan, who were thriving and living wonderful lives."
Evan says it's about feeling supported.
"I think it’s important for kids to know this because they might think they want to be gay or trans or lesbian," Evan said. "But they might be afraid to come out because they might be afraid that people might not support them or their parents might not support them. It’s just really important for kids to feel safe in school, accepted and feel like they belong."
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