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MN Families Fight School District for Right to Opt-Out of LGBTQ Curriculum

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Minnesota families are asking the St. Louis Park Public School District to uphold their religious liberty and affirm their right to opt out of LGBTQ materials with sexual content being taught in elementary English classes.

A non-profit law firm is representing six Somali Muslim families in the case. They sent a letter to the school board and the interim superintendent saying unless they allow their children to opt out, they “will proceed as our clients direct, likely pursuing all available legal remedies.”

First Liberty Institute and True North Legal explained in the 15-page letter dated Dec. 7 how the district’s previous denial of opt-outs violated the First Amendment and Minnesota state law. 

After First Liberty’s first letter in November, the district created a complicated procedure where parents can request alternative learning instruction, but the district has yet to provide advance notice of when these topics will be covered in class, the law firm said.

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In its most recent letter, First Liberty pointed out the problems over the school district’s “Alternative Learning Procedure,” explaining that to comply with state law, “the District must provide parents with notice before sexualized topics will be covered in class, the opportunity for parents to review this curriculum to determine if it is consistent with their religious beliefs, and the ability to excuse their children from this curriculum.”

“The District’s Procedure fails to provide notice to parents before controversial issues are taught or to give an opportunity for parents to review the curriculum in advance. If our clients submit the District’s forms about the texts their children have already been exposed to, including My Shadow is Pink, Our Subway Baby, and Ho’onani: Hula Warrior, this would be too little, too late. Our client’s children were already exposed to these texts without any notice or consent. And they have no way of knowing what books their children will be exposed to next,” the letter said. 

Besides the failure to provide advance notice, First Liberty told the district there were other problems with its procedure, including:

  • Minnesota state law requires opt-outs without explanation
  • The procedure requires exposure and invites government scrutiny of religious beliefs
  • The procedure is overly complicated and poses a barrier to minority communities
  • The procedure creates unnecessary delay and bureaucracy 

The law firm closed the letter by telling district officials, “No later than December 20, 2023, please provide your written assurances that the St. Louis Park Public School District will: (1) provide our clients advance notice and the opportunity to opt-out as required by Minn. Stat. 120B.20; and (2) provide other parents in the District advance notice and the opportunity to opt-out as required by Minn. Stat. 120B.20.”

According to First Liberty, its clients are devout Muslim families who immigrated from war-torn Somalia over the past two decades. Several of the families requested to opt their children out of reading the materials, but those requests were denied.  

“Diversity and inclusion must extend to religious families, too,” said First Liberty Associate Counsel Kayla Toney in a press release. “We are urging the district to follow state law and its own policy that allows parents to opt their children out of controversial subjects. State and federal laws are clear—the school is required to fully accommodate our clients.”

slider img 2The books in question are part of a new curriculum launched by the district this fall. First Liberty said in October, that its clients’ third and fourth-grade children informed the parents that their teachers had introduced books in English class with LGBTQ characters and themes. The readings were accompanied by the teachers’ commentary about what it means to be LGBTQ. 

Fatuma Irshat, a Somali mother of three with deep roots in the local community, explained, “We believe that we have a sacred obligation to teach the principles of our faith to our children without being undermined by the schools. We came to America because of its rich heritage of protecting religious liberty and the opportunity to raise our children in a place where they have access to success. We’re hopeful that the district will grant us a full accommodation.”

CBN News reached out to the St. Louis Park Public School District for comment.  In an email, Rachel Hicks, director of communications for the district, did not address the religious liberties of parents, but did offer the following statement:

“St. Louis Park Public Schools is proud to be inclusive and reflect the diversity of our students and families in our educational materials. We believe it is important for students to see themselves and their families represented in their learning,” the statement said. 

“Our curriculum review and design process ensures that our district is in alignment with the Strategic Plan for Racial Equity Transformation, Minnesota state standards, and the Minnesota Department of Education’s 10 Commitments to Equity,” the statement noted. 

“The K-5 literacy curriculum that was piloted during the 2022-2023 school year and fully implemented in the 2023-2024 school year reflects storylines of LGBTQ+ students and families, as well as racially, culturally and linguistically diverse people. These materials are in alignment with the values that we hold in St. Louis Park Public Schools around inclusive beliefs and identities, which is why we intentionally shared these points of pride with our community this school year,” the statement continued. 

“We understand that families may have diverse perspectives and preferences when it comes to the curriculum, reading materials, and literature topics covered in the classroom. We encourage parents and caregivers to engage in conversations directly with their teachers and principals if they have questions. We appreciate the partnership of families in creating an educational environment that respects the needs and humanity of each student,” the statement concluded. 



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