Authored by Ross Muscato via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
“Pride Puppy!” is one of the more than 20 books with an LGBT theme that the largest school district in Maryland approved, in the fall of 2021, for instruction of students in kindergarten through fourth grade.
The 32-page illustrated storybook–which the publisher lists as appropriate for 3- to 5-year-olds, and grades preschool through kindergarten, tells the story of a family outing to an LGBT pride parade where the family’s dog gets lost … and thankfully found.
At the end of the book, there is an exercise in which students match images on the pages to a glossary of words and terms, among them “intersex,” “[drag] king,” “[drag] queen,” “leather,” and “lip ring.”
Another storybook, “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope,” is also part of the Montgomery County Public Schools LGBTQ+ curriculum. The book, recommended for ages 4 to 8, tells the story of Penelope, born a girl, but feeling that she is really a boy.
Early in the book, Penelope’s older brother, called Big Brother, is having trouble understanding his sibling’s transgenderism. “This doesn’t make sense,” he says. “You can’t become a boy. You have to be born one.” And then Penelope and Big Brother’s mother embraces them both and whispers: “Not everything needs to make sense. This is about love.”
Parents Demand a Say
“Pride Puppy!” and “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope,” and other “Pride” storybooks, and the lessons that make up the LGBT curriculum for kindergarten and elementary school students in Montgomery County, are at the center of a lawsuit brought by a group of parents against the Montgomery County Board of Education.
The parents who are the lead plaintiffs include Muslims, Catholics, and a Ukrainian Orthodox.
In the lawsuit, Mahmoud v. McKnight—filed on May 23 in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland—the petitioners aren’t contesting the texts or the lessons.
What the plaintiffs seek is for parent “opt-out” rights—that have previously been honored by the Montgomery County public school system and are law in Maryland and 31 other states—be protected. Parents want their rights upheld to be notified of lessons and materials that may be in conflict with or be offensive to the religious beliefs of their families, and then choose whether or not their child will read or be exposed to related media and teachings.
The Montgomery County Board of Education though has chosen not to notify parents in advance of the curriculum and lesson plans, and not to avail parents the opportunity to opt their children out of certain lessons, the lawsuit alleges.
Representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is the powerhouse religious liberty law group Becket.
“Here we have a religiously diverse group of parents, different faith traditions, who are united around what is a core American principle–which is the right of parents to direct their children’s religious upbringing,” William Haun, senior counsel for Becket, told The Epoch Times.
“These parents are citizens of Montgomery County, and they, like all other parents in Montgomery County who send their children to Montgomery County Public Schools, have had the ability historically to get advance notice and opt their children out of any kind of instruction that would burden their ability to hand on their religious beliefs to their children.”
Haun said that the Montgomery County Public Schools did not explain why, after the Pride storybooks were added to the curriculum, the parental opt-out right was removed and would not be permitted.
“The Pride books start as early as pre-K and present one-sided issues around gender ideology and gender transitioning and sexual orientation,” said Haun. “And now going forward the parents aren’t allowed to opt out their children.”
He cited the book, “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope,” which is read to 3rd graders in Montgomery County Public Schools.
“Teachers are directed, when they’re discussing the book in class, if a child were to say, I thought, if you’re born a boy, you’re a boy; if you’re born a girl, you’re a girl. The county suggests that teachers say that language comes out as hurtful, and that when a child is born, parents and doctors are just taking a guess about whether you’re a boy or a girl,” Haun said.
“It’s only based on how you feel.”
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Montgomery County Public Schools and the authors and publishers of “Pride Puppy!” and “Born Ready” for comment.
Controversy Across America
The lawsuit filed against the Montgomery Board of Education comes during a time of heightened national controversy and discussion involving and related to LGBT-themed books in public schools and in the children’s section of libraries.
Liberals and progressives argue that LGBT lessons and subject matter in education are needed and a long time in coming. They say it is appropriate to teach and familiarize kids with LBGTQ+ topics, for it fosters understanding and acceptance at an early age, and also helps young people as they deal with their own sexuality and gender identity.
Traditional and conservative factions, however, regard a considerable portion of the LGBT school syllabus and curriculum as a targeted agenda of indoctrination of the young and impressionable that overrides values and virtues that hold together and undergird healthy family and community, while exposing children to issues of sexuality before they are psychologically and emotionally ready.
Each side accuses the other of overreach.
Lawsuits, legal action, book bans and restrictions, and upset parents abound.
Six days prior to the suit being filed against the Montgomery School Board, a Florida public school district found itself served with a suit charging it with suppression of free speech for banning and restricting access to books in its libraries.
Plaintiffs in the suit are two parents of students in the district, the publisher Penguin House; five authors who each had a book banned or placed on restricted access; and PEN, the national member-based nonprofit group that represents writers and advocates for free speech. The defendants are the Escambia County School District and the Escambia County School Board.
At a public school board meeting in Laramie, Wyoming, on June 5, concerned parents delivered the type of emotional and angry testimony that has been on display at open school committees and school board meetings across America.
Several parents told the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees that its opt-out policy and procedure intended to prevent children access to certain books was ineffective. Parents explained that their kids still accessed and were exposed to books that the parents had selected as those that should not be available to the children.
“I’ve been a mother of four children in this district since 2007,” said Patricia McCoy. “I am here tonight to speak on behalf of myself and many other parents who not only disagree with our current opt-out policy but are extremely upset that our children are not being protected and instead are being sexualized, indoctrinated.”
McCoy continued and caused a stir when she read a sexually explicit passage from a book that she said was one of the books recommended for her 14-year-old daughter.
As McCoy recited the vulgar passage, a member of the school board interjected, “Mam.”
McCoy shot back: “Oh, is that not appropriate?”
“It’s not appropriate,” said the board member.
McCoy then told the board that its “opt-out” policy was not working, and not being honored and observed.
“I fill out your opt-out forms every single year, and it’s a joke—they don’t get followed. They don’t get followed at all. People are talking to my children when it specifically says not to.
“You don’t want us to stand here and read this to you because it’s going to make you uncomfortable to hear it. But our kids have access to it every time they walk in the library. It’s disgusting, it’s disrespectful, and I hope, hope, that you are going to protect our children.”