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Montessori charter school parents will no longer opt students out of Black History Month instruction

By Emily Anderson standard-Examiner - | Feb 6, 2021

NORTH OGDEN — Parents who previously asked to opt out of Black History Month instruction at Maria Montessori Academy in North Ogden will no longer do so, school Director Micah Hirokawa told the Standard-Examiner in an email Saturday.

The news comes after the school faced backlash for an announcement Friday that it would give parents the option to keep their kids from participating in Black history instruction in response to “a few families” requesting the accommodation. The school appears to have since taken down its Facebook page, where it had posted the statement.

“We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent out concerning activities planned during this month of celebration,” reads a statement prepared by Hirokawa and the school’s board of directors. “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.”

Hirokawa declined to specify how many parents initially asked to have their children not included in Black history instruction and didn’t specify their reason for doing so. He said in the future, the school plans to handle all parental concerns on an individual basis.

Discussions held with the parents will not result in the school changing its Black History Month curriculum, Hirokawa confirmed to the Standard-Examiner. The academy will base its Black history instruction on state social studies standards, he said.

The majority of students at Maria Montessori Academy, according to state school board data, are white. Of the 322 students enrolled this year, three are Black and 69.6% are white.

The head of the Ogden chapter of the NAACP, Betty Sawyer, told the Standard-Examiner that she contacted the school early Saturday about its decision to make Black History Month curriculum optional.

“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,” Hirokawa and the board of directors wrote in Saturday’s statement.

In the Facebook post made Friday, Hirokawa lamented the parents’ request, saying it “deeply saddens and disappoints me,” and that he “reluctantly” sent the email to parents giving them the choice to opt out.

As a man of Asian descent whose great-grandparents were sent to a Japanese internment camp, he said, “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 wrote Friday that the school made the decision because “families are allowed to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school.”

The school allowing parents to opt out attracted attention from throughout the community and the country, with people expressing support for Hirokawa’s response, others defending the parents’ choice and some saying the school’s decision enables racism.

The school’s plans for recognizing Black History Month include incorporating the achievements of African Americans and their role in U.S. history into the school’s social studies instruction, Hirokawa told the Standard-Examiner.

“We are excited to celebrate the rich content of Black History Month at our school,” Hirokawa and the board of directors said in a statement.


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