MCPS revises LGBTQ+ inclusive books policy


Emil Fang

MCPS has recently clarified that families will not be notified in advance that their students will engage with LGBTQ+ inclusive books in school.

Following an original policy approved in January of this year that appended a selection of six new LGBTQ+ inclusive books for use in Pre-K through 5th grade classrooms in MCPS, a revision to the policy was made recently in late spring. It states that “[s]tudents and families may not choose to opt out of engaging with any instructional materials,” and “[a]s such, teachers will not send home letters to inform families when inclusive books are read in the future.” 

According to MCPS’ message, there was no change to the notion established in the original policy that teachers are expected and encouraged to incorporate the books into their lessons. However, this is not mandatory. 

Initially, the book policy approved by MCPS’ English Language Arts (ELA) teams in the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs (OCIP) did not explicitly mention whether or not there would be an opt-out option from the teaching of the newly added material. 

According to MoCo360, school spokesman Jessica Baxter noted in an interview that when the new LGBTQ+ inclusive books were introduced, there was discussion about including an opt-out component for families in MCPS. But after examining the possibility in accordance with the county’s ACA, Nondiscrimination, Equity and Cultural Proficiency Policy, schools that guidance would be shifted to no longer allowing the opt-out option. 

The books that MCPS have implemented into the curriculum include “Pride Puppy” for Pre-K and Head Start classrooms, as well as “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” and “Intersection Allies: We Make Room for All” for students in kindergarten through grade five. A full list of newly approved LGBTQ+ inclusive texts can be found on the county’s Diverse and Inclusive Instructional Materials & Resources webpage.

The children’s books are meant to “reflect the diversity of the global community, the aspirations, issues, and achievements of women, persons with disabilities, persons from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, as well as persons of diverse gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation,” as stated by the Montgomery County Board of Education’s Policy ACA. As the intent of the book policy is to encourage diversity and curate an open space for the students of MCPS, removal of the choice to opt-out or receive a notice prior to instruction was done for the purpose of creating this accepting environment. 

Although a collection of LGBTQ+ inclusive books have yet to be constructed for high school students in the county, RM students already have input on the existing policy measures. “The release of new LGBTQ+ inclusive books is a good first step, but MCPS should strive for additional policy and curriculum changes and increased access to resources and outreach programs that vocalize their support for LGBTQ+ students,” freshman Chelsea Zhu said. “Every student deserves a curriculum that reflects and represents our identity, and the implementation of LGBTQ+ inclusive books in elementary schools fosters self-growth, promotes open-minded discussion and cultivates a safe space.”

Freshman Oorja Munot also has a similar stance on the revised policy. “By making this a topic that a child has to get permission from their parents to learn about, it makes it ‘taboo’ and inherently makes it seem like it’s inappropriate,” Munot said. “This seems like a good step because the success of MCPS’ efforts to increase diversity will depend on the school’s ability to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, while also working collaboratively with families and the community.”