A school in Utah is continuing its Black History Month curriculum after parents asked the school to allow their children opt out of the program.
Maria Montessori Academy in North Ogden, Utah, after receiving requests from parents, sent out an opt-out form last Wednesday for those unwilling to participate in the school’s planned Black History Month curriculum. The school would not reveal how many parents filled the form out.
Now, less than a week later, school director Micah Hirokawa says that all families are participating, and the school is no longer offering the option to not participate.
“Celebrating Black History Month is part of our tradition. We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent out concerning activities planned during this month of celebration,” Hirokawa and the Board of Directors said in a statement. “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 would not say when the incident was resolved. The academy is a tuition-free public elementary and junior high charter school that uses the principles of the Montessori educational philosophy.
In a since-deleted Facebook post on the school’s official page, Hirokawa expressed his reluctance in sending out the opt-out forms to parents, according to reporting from CNN affiliate KSL.
Hirokawa cited his family’s immigrant background in the post, saying that his great-grandparents were forced into an internment camp, and he sees value of teaching children about the difficulties people of color have faced in US history.
“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,” Hirokawa wrote, according to KSL.
Even before the protests of 2020 against police brutality or a global pandemic disproportionately affecting Black people, there were growing pushes to incorporate Black history into school curriculums outside of February.
Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at a Seattle high school, told CNN last year that history is often taught through a Eurocentric lens that reduces the contributions of Black people. The effect of the omission isn’t just an incomplete picture of US history, it can also damage Black students’ self-worth, he said.
“When Black students don’t see themselves in the curriculum, it’s truly destructive to their sense of self,” he said. “Oftentimes, the only time they see themselves in the curriculum is when slavery is being taught. And you cannot reduce our existence to the enslavement of African people.”
When Black history is taught, Hagopian explained that the accounts are often romanticized or inaccurate. In the instructional text he co-edited, “Teaching for Black Lives,” Hagopian and his co-editors recall the time a Connecticut student found a passage in their history textbook that claimed enslaved people were often treated well by slave owners and were considered family.
In the future, Hirokawa said parental concerns will be handled “on an individual basis,” and maintained that the school is “excited to celebrate the rich content of Black History Month.”
North Ogden, where the school is located, has a population of 19,392 that is 94.2% White, according to the US Census Bureau.