NORTH OGDEN — A North Ogden charter elementary school is getting a lot of angry phone calls after administrators told parents they can opt their children out of participating in Black History Month events. The school's director says he reluctantly made the decision after some parents asked for it.
Parents of children at Maria Montessori Academy in North Ogden were sent a message saying they have the option of letting their kids not take part in Black History Month activities, and they received a link to a Google document that they could fill out if that's what they wanted.
This angered many parents and other concerned citizens. One woman posted on Facebook, "Can somebody please explain to me why a school in Utah would be allowing children to opt out of Black History Month? Does this school allow kids to opt out of other U.S. History?"
Some educators tell KSL current state law allows parents to opt out of any part of the school day, whether that be a class, lunch or other school activities.
However, Academy Director Micah Hirokawa says this wasn't a decision he wanted to make. He posted a message on the school's Facebook page saying some parents asked to opt their kids out of the activities, and he reluctantly sent out a letter to parents informing them how they could do so, even though it goes against his personal beliefs.
Hirokawa wrote, "There are too many people who are seeking to be a light in this world and choose to fight this war with anger, violence, and hate. To use these methods to gain peace and acceptance I feel is hypocrisy."
Hirokawa also wrote that his own great-grandparents were thrown into an internment camp, and he sees great value in teaching children about the treatment, challenges and obstacles people of color have faced.
He added, "I am deeply troubled that in today's society, not just in our community but throughout the Nation, there are those today who still continue to exercise their civil rights to not participate in events like Black History Month. I believe that all of us, and especially our children, need to participate in Black History Month and in the process learn how to appreciate and love those who may be different than us."
The fact that some parents were asking to take their kids out of these events is upsetting to NAACP of Utah President Jeanetta Williams.
"I am really surprised and appalled that a parent would want to have their child opt out," Williams says. "This is something that should be taught year-round and not just in February."
Even though parents are allowed to opt their children out of any school event, Williams says there are requirements every child has to meet if they want to graduate, and knowledge of Black history should be one of those requirements.
"There should be no given opportunity to have a student opt out just because they feel uncomfortable about talking about race and race relationships," she says. "If they want to opt out, then perhaps the best thing they should do is homeschool their children."
Editor's note: A previous version included an erroneous location for Maria Montessori Academy. That has been corrected.