Micah Hirokawa, director of the school in North Ogden, Utah, announced the latest decision in a statement to The Hill, saying that all students are now participating in the curriculum and there will not be an option to skip the lesson in the future.
“We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent out concerning activities planned during this month of celebration,” Hirokawa stated. “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.”
According to the Standard-Examiner, the controversy surfaced on Friday when Hirokawa went to Facebook and told families that they are allowed to skip the curriculum. In the post, which has since been deleted, the director “reluctantly” informed the community that “families are allowed to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school.”
“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,” he said.
While some parents are now praising the school for reversing its decision, others are chastising the plan.
“I was appalled to see the form sent out that allows parents to opt their kids out of this and to hear that this is all because some parents have requested it,” said Rebecca Bennett, who identified herself as a parent of students at the school in a comment on Facebook. “I echo others who are disappointed to hear this was even ever made an issue in the first place by some families in our school’s community.”
Another Facebook user, Bonnie Fenn Taylor, said she is concerned “that parents are being totally lambasted for opting out.”
“They have rights the same as everyone else,” Taylor said.
U.S. Rep. Blake D. Moore, a Republican whose district includes North Ogden, supported the school’s decision to teach Black history.
“Our children should learn and celebrate Black history without controversy,” Moore wrote in a statement. “In 1926, Carter Woodson petitioned for recognition of Black achievement and it is incumbent on us to honor that legacy by taking time to reemphasize the contribution of African Americans to the advancement and preservation of this nation. This news gave me an opportunity to discuss this with my own kids, and I encourage everyone to do so not only during this Black History Month, but every month of the year.”
According to the Standard-Examiner, Maria Montessori Academy’s enrollment data shows that less than 1% of the charter school’s 322 students are Black while 69.6% are white.
“Maria Montessori Academy is a public charter school that strives to serve all of its students equitably,” Hirokawa said in an email. “MMA regularly communicates with our parents about upcoming projects, lessons, and events, as we believe working closely with families helps ensure a quality educational experience.”
As Blavity previously reported, former President Donald Trump sparked the backlash when he promoted the “1776 Commission,” a document that downplayed the tragedy of American slavery. Encouraged by the report, Republican lawmakers in Arkansas, Iowa and Mississippi are now aiming to pass a bill that would prevent students from learning about racial equality.