Carroll Report Maryland Muckraker

Muckraker: Carroll County clearly targeted by bill banning opt-outs ‘One jurisdiction said no’

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Maryland General Assembly House of Delegates

For all the talk about books it is really opt-outs being banned in Maryland.

Parents of public school students in Carroll County may soon lose the right to opt their children out of gender identity content in the classroom, the result of targeted legislation from Howard County Democrat Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary.

Atterbeary’s bill, HB0558, would make “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” one of nine topics in the Comprehensive Health Education Framework, which local school boards are required to develop curriculum for.

Today, gender identity and sexual orientation content exists, but it is mostly nested under a topic that is treated uniquely: “Family Life and Human Sexuality.”

Unique because, for the sensitive topic, parents can opt-out of the state’s standard curriculum on it, and into a local version of curriculum developed by a district’s Family Life Advisory Council.

Where the state’s curriculum would ask students to differentiate between sex assigned at birth and gender identity, a local curriculum to Carroll would not.

Atterbeary sees this not as local democracy at work, but as a lack of inclusion on the part of Carroll County specifically.

After she confirmed the bill “Removes the ability of parents to opt their students out of the gender identity and sexual orientation topics” during a February 20th House Floor Session, she later explained:

“The committee wanted to be clear that topics related to gender identity and sexual orientation are not stripped as they were by Carroll County during the previous years,” she said.

“The purpose of the health curriculum is to make all students feel included, to make all students feel reflected.”

Then on the 23rd: “We do like the framework and we want you to follow it, and what we’re finding is that there is one particular jurisdiction that is not following it” she said. “You don’t want to follow it, we’re going to go ahead and we’re going to put it in statute.”

“It should be offensive that one jurisdiction said, no, we are not going to respect one type of individual,” she concluded.

By elevating “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” to its own topic, and decoupling it from “Family Life and Human Sexuality,” Atterbeary would revoke a parent’s right to opt their child out of content they feel is age inappropriate or otherwise incompatible with their values or religious beliefs.

Atterbeary filed the same bill last year, HB0119, with the support of former State Schools Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury.

In a shocking turn of events, Carroll County Republican Delegate Eric Bouchat, otherwise a conservative, voted Yes to the bill, later analogizing legislating to horse trading, where a self-sacrifice here begets a favor there.

He was the only Republican to vote Yes for the bill, now granting Democrats the ability to say it has bipartisan support as it heads to the Senate after passing in the House.

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