SALT LAKE CITY — A North Ogden charter school has reversed course on a decision allowing parents to opt their children out of Black History Month activities at the school.
In a statement on its webpage, officials from Maria Montessori Academy said that “at this time no families are opting out of our planned activities and we have removed this option.”
The statement on the webpage indicates that a compromise has been found.
“Public Statement Regarding Black History Month: The Maria Montessori Academy Board of Directors and the School Director have one primary goal – providing a quality and equitable education to all of our students. Celebrating Black History Month is part of our tradition. We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent out concerning activities planned during this month of celebration. 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. We are excited to celebrate the rich content of Black History Month at our school.”
Option to opt-out of Black History Month criticized
Rep. Blake Moore, who represents the city of Ogden in Utah’s First Congressional District, said in a statement posted to his congressional website, that he was disappointed when he first heard about the opt-out option given to parents at Maria Montessori Academy. And he said he was “heartened” when the school reversed its decision.
“The First District of Utah is a welcoming, inclusive community,” the statement read, “and our children should learn and celebrate Black history without controversy.
“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.”
On Friday, KSL NewsRadio reported that parents of students at the charter school were told they’d have the option of keeping their children out of Black History Month activities.
At that time, Academy Director Micah Hirokawa said that some parents had asked for the opt-out option. Hirokawa said he’d agreed to give them the option despite his personal beliefs about the issue. According to the Associated Press, he is 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.
Responses from NAACP, Utah Jazz standout
The decision to allow parents to opt their children out brought responses from the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP and, on Sunday, a tweet from Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell:
I don’t know where to start…. racism is taught… and the fact that kids are being told by their own parents to not learn about black history and black excellence is sickening and sad!! And this is just part of the problem….. smh https://t.co/8vWkz0lZKQ
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) February 7, 2021
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.
Contributing: Associated Press
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