Utah school makes Black History Month optional, changes course amid outrage

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Black History Month has caused a stir at a nearly all-white Utah charter school — after administrators allowed some parents to opt-out their kids from partaking in the lessons.

The move at Maria Montessori Academy in North Ogden — where just three of its 322 students are black — stoked outrage online, with some claiming it enabled bigotry among children, the Standard-Examiner reported.

The public charter’s director, Micah Hirokawa, said the request from a “few families” to withdraw their kids from the annual February lessons “deeply” saddened him — but he granted it anyway.

“Reluctantly, I sent out a letter to our school community explaining that families are allowed to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school,” director Micah Hirokawa reportedly wrote Friday on the school’s Facebook page, which was no longer up Monday.

One mother of a student at the school said she was “appalled” by the development.

“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,” parent Rebecca Bennett reportedly replied.

The head of the local NAACP chapter said she also reached out to the school Saturday after learning of its decision to make the curriculum optional for some students.

That same day, Hirokawa said the parents rescinded their request to opt-out of the lessons, the Standard-Examiner reported.

“We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent concerning activities planned during this month of celebration,” Hirokawa and its board of directors said in a statement on the Facebook page Utah Montessorians. “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 did not indicate how many parents initially sought to have their child not partake in black history lessons at the school, where 69.6 percent of students are white, according to state school data cited by the outlet.

Hirokawa said the school will utilize state social studies standards for its lesson plan, which won’t be altered due to discussions held with the parents of students who originally asked for them to be exempt.

“In the future, we will handle all parental concerns on an individual basis,” the statement continued. “We are excited to celebrate the rich content of Black History Month at our school.”

At least one person on Facebook, however, backed the parents who sought the exemption, saying she was worried they were being “totally lambasted for opting out,” the Standard-Examiner reported.

“They have rights the same as everyone else,” commented Bonnie Fenn Taylor, whose connection to the school was unclear, according to the newspaper.

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