Utah School has confirmed it won't allow parents to opt students out of the Black History Month curriculum anymore.
A Utah charter school has announced that the Black History Month curriculum will not be optional, as before. The school had initially provided a choice to families that wanted to opt out but now made it mandatory learning after facing a backlash. Maria Montessori Academy Director Micah Hirokawa has confirmed the history lesson will be mandatory and learning the history of the community was an important part of American history. "Celebrating Black History Month is part of our tradition," said Hirokawa in the statement posted on the Utah Montessorians Facebook group. "We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent out concerning activities planned during this month of celebration," wrote Micah Hirokawa, reported The Hill. "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." The school caters to elementary and middle school students but more importantly has only three Black students out of 322, with white students making up roughly 70 percent of the school’s population, according to the Utah State Board of Education.
Micah Hirokawa said the school had “reluctantly” sent a letter to families allowing them to opt-out of the curriculum if they wished to. The decision was announced on the school's private Facebook page. Hirokawa said the letter stated administrators were allowing them “to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school.” He later confirmed in the Facebook post that "a few families” had requested their child not to participate in the curriculum. The Academy Director didn't specify how many families had made the request to be withdrawn from the curriculum or what reasons they provided for not doing so.
Ogden NAACP statement:— Emily Anderson (@emilyreanderson) February 8, 2021
“While this decision was recently reversed, we find its very consideration troubling. We welcome the Maria Montessori Academy to engage in dialogue with the Ogden NAACP and revisit its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.” pic.twitter.com/yf639NS1OD
The public charter school director added that the demand from parents deeply saddened and disappointed him. “We should not shield our children from the history of our Nation, the mistreatment of its African American citizens, and the bravery of civil rights leaders, but should educate them about it,” said Hirokawa. He added that Black History Month will be part of social studies and history lessons, with a focus on the achievements of African American figures in American history. Hirokawa drew from his own family's experience while stressing the importance of learning history. Micah Hirokawa, who is of Asian descent, said his great-grandparents were sent to a Japanese internment camp, and said he believes there is “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,” reported Standard Examiner.
.@RepBlakeMoore just released a statement regarding Maria Montessori Academy’s earlier decision to allow parents to opt out of Black History Month curriculum.— Emily Anderson (@emilyreanderson) February 7, 2021
“I strongly believe we cannot learn American history without learning Black history.” pic.twitter.com/EJA3eN7IM7
The Utah Montessori community embraces the philosophy established by Dr. Maria Montessori with its foundation of education for peace. In doing so, we are committed to teaching Black history and the practices of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our schools," read a post by Duna Strachan, on the group Utah Montessorians. "In unity with national and international Montessori organizations, we recognize that this philosophy is needed now more than ever before. An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of humanity, the enhancement of the value of each individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live." Many parents were appalled at the school for making the curriculum optional.