A school board member in St. Louis Park told Muslim parents she expects “solidarity” from them after they raised concerns over classroom materials.
“Our primary concern is that our children are encountering material that is sexualized and not age-appropriate within the school environment,” a Muslim parent said while addressing the St. Louis Park school board during an Oct. 24 meeting. “We wholeheartedly respect the importance of affirming LGBTQ identities, but we are troubled by the way these books are being presented to our children. The manner in which these subjects are taught appears to exceed the boundaries of affirmation, urging every child to delve into their own understanding of gender and sexuality.”
She raised concerns with two books containing LGBTQ topics that she alleged had been presented to children without their parents’ knowledge or an option to opt out. “Our concerns are not rooted in animosity,” the parent said.
Other Muslim parents spoke at the meeting and expressed the same concerns, saying that the views presented in some of the books go against their religious beliefs. They requested that an opt-out option be offered to parents.
“We understand the importance of an environment that promotes respect for all individuals. However, it’s equally crucial to acknowledge and respect all students’ and their families’ religions and rights,” one parent said.
“This is young kids we’re talking about. They’re not adults and they’re not ready to hear these conversations,” said another parent, who said she just wants the option to opt out of certain instruction.
In an uncommon move, school board member Sarah Davis said that she was going to respond to some of the public comments at the end of the board meeting. “I’ve been very open about my queer identity,” Davis said. She explained that she is married to a woman and has two children in the district.
A St. Louis Park school board member criticizes Muslim parents for a lack of "solidarity" after they raised concerns about material that is "sexualized and not age-appropriate" being presented to their children. pic.twitter.com/aRjC2X2krI
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) November 6, 2023
Davis was endorsed by the LGBTQ organization OutFront Minnesota. “Queer people exist. We’re here. We’re gonna continue to be here. And there’s gonna continue to be books in our schools and in our community reflecting our identity,” Davis said. “I respect your religious beliefs, and also as a queer person in a marginalized community, I would hope and expect solidarity. Muslim communities have been historically marginalized and so have queer communities.”
Davis said that having books about LGBTQ topics is part of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
“And it is disappointing, in St. Louis Park, to have this come up. I don’t have all the words. I’m thinking about my child. I’m thinking about what it would feel like for him if I said that having a book about a concept of two dads — he has two moms — is troubling,” she said. “Urging children to engage with their gender identity, with the idea that that my wife and I exist, that our family exists, is not controversial. Limiting access for children to books is not going to protect them from the fact that I exist in this world and that my family exists in this world.”
She said that while she’s willing to “engage in this conversation,” she wanted the parents “to know what it feels like as a queer parent to sit here and listen to that.”
She then responded directly to one of the concerned parents, who interjected that it was not her intention to make Davis feel unwelcome, saying that it was difficult to “understand and appreciate the respect.”
“I want you to understand how that is received as a queer person on this board,” Davis said.
“We respect everyone. We’re just trying to protect our kids and we believe in our religion and we’re going to stick to that,” the parent responded.
“I’m not going to engage right now. This is not the forum,” Davis then replied.
Another parent jumped in, asking to respectfully add on to what the other parent was saying. “I would love to just add without having her feel like she’s being attacked,” the parent said. Her request to speak was denied as one school board member told her it was not the place for a “back and forth.”
Four seats on the St. Louis Park school board are up for election on Nov. 7.