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Utah Parents Drop Black History Curriculum Opt Out Request

Feb 8, 2021, 6:19 AM

NORTH OGDEN, Utah (AP) – Parents who sought to opt out their children from learning Black History Month curriculum at a charter school in northern Utah have withdrawn their requests.

Maria Montessori Academy in North Ogden experienced a public backlash after announcing plans to make participation optional, the Standard-Examiner reported Saturday.

“We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent out concerning activities planned during this month of celebration,” a statement from Academy Director Micah Hirokawa and the school’s board of directors said.

“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,” the statement said.

School officials said a few families requested the exemption from the instruction, but declined to say how many or specify the reasons given.

Betty Sawyer, head of the Ogden chapter of the NAACP, said she contacted the school Saturday morning about the decision to make Black History Month curriculum optional.

Data from the Utah State Board of Education shows that only three of the academy’s 322 students are Black, while 70% are white.

Hirokawa wrote on the school’s Facebook page Friday that he “reluctantly” issued a letter explaining families are allowed “to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school.”

The Facebook page appeared to have been removed Saturday.

In future, the school plans to handle parental concerns on an individual basis, Hirokawa said.

Discussions held with the parents will not result in a change to the Black History Month curriculum, which is based on Black history instruction using state social studies standards, Hirokawa said.

Hirokawa, who is of Asian decent, said the social media post went against his personal beliefs as the great-grandson of people sent to a Japanese internment camp.

“I personally see a lot of value in teaching our children about the mistreatment, challenges and obstacles that people of color in our Nation have had to endure and what we can do today to ensure that such wrongs don’t continue,” Hirokawa said.

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Utah Parents Drop Black History Curriculum Opt Out Request