A northern Utah charter school has sparked national outrage after parents were allowed to opt-out of the institution’s Black History Month curriculum.
According to the Standard-Examiner, Micah Hirokawa, the director at Maria Montessori Academy, posted on the school’s Facebook page that he was hesitant to send a letter to families permitting them “to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school.”
Hirokawa disclosed that some students’ families asked to forego the once a year celebration of Black Americans’ contributions. He didn’t explain their reasons or exactly how many families didn’t want to participate.
“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 told the Standard-Examiner, adding that he was disappointed by the requests.
The board of directors refused to comment on the situation.
The school located in North Ogden, Utah, has a staff of mostly all-white administrators and educators, with Hirokawa as the exception. He is of Asian ancestry.
Maria Montessori Academy’s Board of Directors is also all-white. The student body at the school also lacks diversity.
As of the 2020-2021 school year, Maria Montessori Academy’s student population consisted of 322 children – 79% white, 1% Black, 4% Biracial, 15% Latino and 1% Asian. According to The Public School Review website, the institution ranked 900 out of 957 public schools in Utah.
Some parents at the school argued that allowing parents to opt-out of the Black History Month curriculum encouraged racism.
Hirokawa backpedaled on his initial decision to give parents a choice on Sunday in a Facebook Group called Utah Montessorians.
“As the Director of Maria Montessori Academy in North Ogden, you may have heard some alarming news as our school works to change hearts and minds with grace and courtesy. It’s been a tough road as we work to honor and follow each child’s and each adult’s personal journey. Please consider the following public statement as a wonderful step in the right direction. Mahalo for all your aloha and support,” he wrote.
“The Maria Montessori Academy Board of Directors and the School Director have one primary goal – providing a quality and equitable education to all of our students,” Hirowaka continued. “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.”