Utah School Changes Course, Says It Won't Allow Parents To Opt Students Out Of Black History Month Curriculum

A Utah charter school that sparked national controversy when it decided to allow parents to opt their children out of the Black History Month curriculum has now changed course.

As The Hill reported, the Maria Montessori Academy faced sharp criticism when it posted a notice stating that students did not have to take part in the curriculum honoring the contributions of Black Americans. The message was originally posted on the school's private Facebook page, but quickly found its way into national news.

School director Micah Hirokawa said that he came to the decision reluctantly after a few families had asked to not participate, but has now gone back on the decision. In a letter shared with The Hill, Hirokawa wrote that celebrating Black History Month is a school tradition and that the school regrets initially sending parents a notice stating they could choose to not have their children participate.

"We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent out concerning activities planned during this month of celebration," he continued. "We are grateful that families that initially had questions and concerns have willingly come to the table to resolve any differences and at this time no families are opting out of our planned activities and we have removed this option. In the future, we will handle all parental concerns on an individual basis."

Hirokawa added that he was deeply disappointed that some had requested the chance to opt out of the teachings, saying that the school should not be shielding children from learning about the history of the United States including "the mistreatment of its African American citizens, and the bravery of civil rights leaders." He added that as an Asian-American whose great-grandparents were sent to internment camps, he values teaching students about the struggles that many minority groups have had to endure.

The reversal of the decision came after some local groups spoke out against the academy, with a local Black Lives Matter group calling the decision appalling.

As Fox 13 reported, state law allows parents to opt their children out of some portions of school curriculum based on their religious beliefs, but a state board of education representative said that they are not allowed to be waived out of the social studies standards, including lessons on U.S. history regarding inequalities and race relations.

The state had made other recent moves to address inequalities, including passing a measure last year banning so-called "gay conversion therapy" for minors.