Opt Out, Parental Rights Dominate Board of Education Candidate Event

On Wednesday, Board of Education (BOE) candidates were invited to the firehouse in Sandy Spring by United Against Racism in Education (UARE). Their answers to questions posed by host Eric Stuart were scored by UARE members in a process to choose who the group would endorse in the May primary on their Blue Book Ballot.

Candidates were rated on issues like academics, opt-out, aggression, ethnic groups and discipline.

Of the 14 candidates for the Board, six attended. When contacted by MCM, some candidates had other plans. Others objected to UARE’s position on issues like Opt-Out and transgenderism. Among those who did attend, some were not familiar with UARE. One candidate just wanted “to make as many contacts as possible.”

Questions focused on fentanyl, antisemitism in schools and budget transparency. When it came to the hot button issue of students opting out of items in the curriculum inconsistent with their religious beliefs, a few candidate statements stood out.

Retired Montgomery County Police Officer Sharif Hidayat felt Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) mishandled the situation, ” I think that the reason parents are upset is that you gave them an option and you took it away…. Nobody wants to be told you can have something and then take it away from ’em….”.

Bethany Mandel, a conservative columnist, disagreed, “They just want to have some kind of say in this very basic part of their children’s education. So I found that to be surprising, parents should have the very basic rights. I think that’s not really a very controversial statement, but apparently in 2024 it is.”

Teacher Brenda Diaz expressed concerns as well, “…teachers were not trained to handle the sorts of questions that little children will be making when they read these books.”

On the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion, self-described professional educator Fitzgerald Mofor had this to say. “I also believe that diversity, equity and inclusion should not be instituted within the curriculum. We do not need sloganizing or political idioms to understand that we have to treat people correctly, so to speak.”

Rita Montoya, a PTA President, felt, “These terms have just become so popular that they don’t really have the meaning that they’re supposed to have anymore.”

Ricky Mui, a management consultant for Accenture, cited fear of persecution as a stumbling block, “It comes down to being uneducated or less educated or feeling that, or going back to feeling and not knowing the real religious or I mean the real history behind something. That’s what I think is the root cause.”

There was consensus on issues like the return of School Resource Officers (SRO) and the suggestion to move BOE meetings to evenings so parents could attend.

BOE candidates are nonpartisan and all 14 will appear on the May 14 primary ballot competing for the At Large, District 2 and District 4 seats.

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