FIRST ON FOX: A Maryland school district that recently unveiled an LGBTQ-inclusive book list for elementary schools has declined to recommend several children’s books on the basis that they promote "American values," Fox News Digital has learned.
Fox News Digital first reported Tuesday that books recommended by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), Maryland’s most affluent school district, teach words like "intersex" and "drag queen" to children as young as 4.
Records later provided to Fox News Digital by Bethany Mandel, editor of the Heroes of Liberty book series, showed that MCPS recently declined to recommend three non-fiction children’s books that were donated to the school district by Heroes of Liberty Inc., which seeks to counter progressive literature favored by public schools.
The New York-based company donated three children’s books about libertarian economist Thomas Sowell, Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton for use in MCPS libraries and recommended for grades 2-6.
According to records on the school district’s Database of Accountable Evaluations (DAE), MCPS declined to recommend the 2021 biography "Thomas Sowell: A Self-Made Man" on Sept. 30.
The MCPS evaluation said that a "weakness" of the Sowell book was that "the publisher has a stated mission of creating books with ‘the American values that made this country great.’"
An MCPS evaluation also conducted on Sept. 30 similarly declined to recommend the 2021 biography "Amy Coney Barrett: A Justice and a Mother."
The MCPS evaluation said that two "weaknesses" of the Coney Barrett book were that "the publisher seems to have an agenda – publishing books about people with ‘American values’" and that it "glosses over a lot of her life. The book is more about a message than an informative biography."
A third evaluation conducted by MCPS on Sept. 30 declined to recommend the 2022 biography "Alexander Hamilton: From Immigrant Boy to Father."
According to the evaluation, a "weakness" of the Hamilton book was that it "leaves out too much factual information about Hamilton's life. The book is more about a message than an informative biography."
The three Heroes of Liberty books were approved only for "marginal" use. MCPS told Fox News Digital that schools can still request the books for use in their libraries.
"They were evaluated and recommended as ‘marginal’ meaning schools can still get these titles, however, there could be more objective titles on the particular subject," the district said.
Notably, MCPS evaluations for the fiction books "My Rainbow," which teaches words like "transgender" and "cisgender," and "Prince & Knight," which is about a gay romance between a prince and a knight, resulted in them being "highly recommended" for students in kindergarten through third grade.
Further, "My Rainbow" has been designated a "textbook" for classroom use.
"This text could be used during whole group time or small group time during the [English language arts] block," the June 22 evaluation stated.
"In deep blue Montgomery County, the public schools will force primary schoolchildren to sit through books about gender and sexuality, but they won’t even accept a donation of books if a publisher prioritizes American values," Mandel told Fox News Digital.
MCPS told Fox News Digital that the Heroes of Liberty books have not been excluded from the libraries and that "several schools have requested one or more of the liberty titles to receive as a donation to add to their library collection."
When asked why promoting American values is viewed as a "weakness," MCPS responded: "Media specialists look for books that provide objective information on a variety of topics and it is important to know if a book is heavily influenced by a singular perspective. This information is provided for guidance for any media specialist looking for books on a particular topic."
"We want to reiterate MCPS’ policy to equity in choosing materials: ‘instructional materials are chosen to reflect the diversity of our global community, the aspirations, issues and achievements of women, persons with disabilities, persons from diverse, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, as well as persons of diverse gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation,'" the school district said.
Fox News Digital previously reported that a MCPS presentation for staff in August showed a list of LGBTQ+ books that will be provided for pre-K through fifth-grade classrooms this year, including "My Rainbow" and "Prince & Knight." The presentation explained that the LGBTQ-inclusive reading list aims to "reduce stigmatization and marginalization of transgender and gender nonconforming students."
A book that MCPS has recommended for children in pre-kindergarten is "Pride Puppy," which teaches terms like "intersex," "drag king," "drag queen" and "Marsha P. Johnson," the late famed drag performer.
A book the school district recommended for students in kindergarten, ages 5 and 6, is the 2021 book "Uncle Bobby’s Wedding," which is about a wedding between two men.
Students in first grade were recommended to read "Intersection Allies: We Make Room for All," which includes LGBTQ+ topics on being "non-binary" and deciding "what pronouns fit you best."
Students in the fourth grade, ages 9 and 10, were advised to read "Love, Violet," which tells the story of a young girl who develops a crush on her female friend.
The school district’s evaluation of that book conducted in June resulted in it being "highly recommended" for classroom use, and it has also been designated as a "textbook."
The MCPS presentation about LGBTQ books provided several examples of potential complaints from parents and community members and how MCPS staff should respond. MCPS previously insisted in a statement to Fox News Digital that the LGBTQ readings are not mandatory and that they will not be scheduled for use until families are notified. However, the presentation included a guide on "Responding to Caregivers/Community Questions," and two of the example questions included, "Why can’t I opt out of this…" and "Can I keep my child home…," and neither of the example answers to those questions said that families can opt out.
In fact, if a parent asks why they "can’t" opt their children out of the readings like they can with sexual health-related topics, MCPS staff are advised to explain that the readings are about "diversity" not anatomy, according to the presentation.
"During Family Health & Life, we are learning about scientific topics like biology, anatomy, puberty and reproduction," the sample response states. "In these picture books and discussions, students are learning about the diversity of identities that exist in the world and in our classroom; we are not getting into any of the scientific specifics. This is similar to when we’re learning about different races, ethnicities and religions which are other social identities commonly talked about in school. All children and their families deserve to see themselves and their families positively represented in our school community."
If a parent asks whether they can keep their child home during the LGBTQ readings, MCPS faculty are advised to explain that no effort will be made to persuade a child from holding certain beliefs.
"While there are no planned, explicit lessons related to gender and sexuality, students will see these identities embedded throughout," the sample response states. "For students for whom some of these identities are new, questions and conversations might organically happen. Inclusive curricula support a student’s ability to empathize, connect, and collaborate with a diverse group of peers, and encourage respect for all. No child who does not agree with or understand another student’s, gender, identity or expression, or their sexuality identity is asked to change how they feel about it."
MCPS previously told Fox News Digital that "these books are a way to actualize the policy and guidelines and have undergone a rigorous evaluation process. All the content within them is age and developmentally-appropriate."
"MCPS is committed to ensuring all students and their families see themselves in the curriculum to cultivate an inclusive and welcoming learning environment," the school district continued. "These books are not mandatory. These books are on the approved list of supplemental materials schools will have access to that align with our goal of providing more inclusive texts and resources in support of curriculum standards. As is our standard practice, these materials are not scheduled for use until system-wide communication has been sent to families."