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UPDATED Feb. 8, 1:13 p.m. ET: According to AP, parents who wanted their children to opt out of learning Black History Month curriculum have withdrawn their requests.
“We regret that after receiving requests, an opt-out form was sent out concerning activities planned during this month of celebration,” a statement from Academy Director Micah Hirokawa and the school’s board of directors said. “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.”
According to the Standard-Examiner, Maria Montessori Academy Director Micah Hirokawa announced the decision on the school’s private Facebook page on Friday. He reportedly wrote that he “reluctantly” sent the letter to parents saying that the administration was permitting them “to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school.”
Hirokawa added that “a few families” asked to not take part in the curriculum, though he didn’t reveal to the Standard-Examiner how many parents made the initial request or the reasons why they did. He said that the parents’ decision “deeply saddens and disappoints me.”
Enrollment data from the Utah State Board of Education shows that only three of the school’s 322 students are Black, while white students comprise around 70 percent of the school’s student body.
“We should not shield our children from the history of our nation, the mistreatment of its African American citizens, and the bravery of civil rights leaders, but should educate them about it,” Hirokawa said. He told the Utah publication that the school integrates Black History Month into social studies and history lessons for its elementary and middle school students, where teachers underscore the accomplishments of notable Black figures in the nation’s history.
Hirokawa—whose family is Asian and whose great-grandparents were sent to a Japanese internment camp—told the outlet that he thinks there is “a lot of value in teaching our children about the mistreatment, challenges, and obstacles that people of color in our nation have had to endure and what we can do today to ensure that such wrongs don’t continue.”