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Minnesota School District Urged to Grant Opt-Out from Sexual Curriculum to Religious Families

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December 11, 2023

News Release
For Immediate Release: 12.11.23
Contact: Peyton Luke, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Minnesota School District Urged to Grant Opt-Out from Sexual Curriculum to Religious Families
Families had been previously denied opt-out requests, but after letter from law firm, school district may grant requests.

St. Louis Park, MN—First Liberty Institute and True North Legal sent a letter to the St. Louis Park Public School District (MN) urging officials to allow several children from Somali-American families to opt-out of materials with sexual content being taught in elementary English classes.  The law firms sent the letter explaining how the district’s previous denial of opt-outs violated the First Amendment and state law.  After First Liberty’s last letter, the District created a complicated procedure where parents can request alternative learning instruction, but the District has yet to provide advance notice of when these topics will be covered in class.

First Liberty and True North Legal represent several devout Muslim families who immigrated from war-torn Somalia over the past two decades. All asked for notice and the ability to opt out from any books that discuss sexual orientation or gender identity that are inconsistent with their deeply-held beliefs.

“Diversity and inclusion must extend to religious families, too,” said Kayla Toney, Associate Counsel at First Liberty.  “We are urging the district to follow state law and its own policy that allows parents to opt their children out of controversial subjects. State and federal laws are clear—the school is required to fully accommodate our clients.”

Fatuma Irshat, a Somali mother of three with deep roots in the local community, explained, “We believe that we have a sacred obligation to teach the principles of our faith to our children without being undermined by the schools.  We came to America because of its rich heritage of protecting religious liberty and the opportunity to raise our children in a place where they have access to success. We’re hopeful that the district will grant us a full accommodation.”

In October 2023, our clients’ third and fourth grade children informed their parents that their teachers had introduced books in English class with LGBTQ characters and themes. The readings were accompanied by the teachers’ commentary about what it means to be LGBTQ. These books and discussions have caused significant confusion and distress to our clients and their children.  Several families requested to opt their children out of reading the materials, but those requests were denied.  Several members of the community then testified at a school board meeting expressing their concern over the curriculum and the lack of notice and the rejection of opt-outs.

The letter sent by attorneys states, “To comply with Minnesota law, the District must provide parents with notice before sexualized topics will be covered in class, the opportunity to review this curriculum to determine if it is consistent with a parent’s religious beliefs, and the ability to excuse their children from this curriculum.”

“The six clients we represent are not the only parents in St. Louis Park concerned about their children being exposed to teaching about LGBTQ+ sexuality without their knowledge or consent. An entire community, including members of other faiths and cultural backgrounds, are looking to our clients for leadership on this issue.”

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Peyton Luke at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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