SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief, led by the State of Virginia, in Mahmoud v McKnight in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The case involves parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, who are challenging the County Board of Education’s decision to deny parents the right to opt their children out of certain controversial books and curriculum on First Amendment religious grounds.
Earlier this year, several Montgomery County residents initiated a lawsuit against the county’s school board over its recently enacted policy to require all students to read controversial books regardless of parental involvement or direction. Prior to this year, the school board allowed parents to opt their children out of such assignments. The Board of Education is arguing that, despite the existence of a state law giving parents the right to opt their children out of sex-education classes and curricula, the books in question are intertwined with the language arts program, allowing county schools to supersede the parents’ wishes. The parents lost at the district court level and are appealing to the Fourth Circuit.
The coalition of States argues that “laws authorizing students to opt out of sex education are longstanding and widespread.”
In their brief, the attorneys general write:
Although States can set curricula in public schools, States also recognize that parents – not governments – typically have the right to direct the education of children and often allow parents to exclude their children from sexual health instruction for any grounds (or no grounds) whatsoever. Some States permit opt outs only if the educational program would conflict with the student’s or family’s religious beliefs. But in nearly all States, written notification by a parent or guardian is enough to satisfy the opt-out criteria. States’ near-universal adoption of broad parental opt-in or opt-out policies for purposes of sexual health instruction thus reflects a time-honored tradition of State recognition of parental rights.
Joining Utah and Virginia on this brief were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.