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Utah School Faces Backlash For Letting Parents Opt Out of Black History Month Lessons

The Maria Montessori Academy recently reversed the decision and will instruct the Black History Month curriculum.

The Maria Montessori Academy in northern Utah has become the site of a heated debate about race and history. According to the local Standard-Examiner, the school's director Micah Hirowaka sent out a form to parents that would allow them to withdraw their children from Black History Month lessons.

On Friday, Hirowaka posted a statement sharing the news to the school's Facebook page. "Reluctantly, I sent out a letter to our school community explaining that families are allowed to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school."

Hirowaka cited "a few families" asking not to participate, saying the request "deeply saddens and disappoints me."

"We should not shield our children from the history of our nation," he wrote, "the mistreatment of its African-American citizens, and the bravery of civil rights leaders, but should educate them about it."

After critiques from concerned parents, the school decided to reverse the decision on Saturday. The school will continue instructing the Black History Month assignments as planned. The parents who initially opted out have withdrawn their requests amidst the backlash.

“We are grateful that families that initially had questions and concerns have willingly come to the table to resolve any differences," Hirowaka said in a statement. "At this time no families are opting out of our planned activities, and we have removed this option."

On Sunday, Republican congressman Blake Moore released a statement critiquing the decision. "I share the disappointment and sadness at the news," Moore said. "I am heartened that our local school reversed its decision under the guidance of strong leadership. While I have not reviewed the curriculum myself, I strongly believe we cannot learn American history without learning Black history."

According to data from the Utah State Board of Education, the Maria Montessori Academy is made up of nearly 70 percent white students. Just three of the school's 322 students are Black.