A Utah public charter school is backtracking after initially considering it a good idea to allow parents to opt out of Black History Month activities for their children. As if it’s not heartbreaking enough that many schools relegate Black history education to a single month (if teaching it at all), Maria Montessori Academy Director Micah Hirokawa explained in a Facebook post on Saturday that opt-out forms were sent to parents after they received requests for the allowance.
“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,” Hirokawa said in the post. “In the future, we will handle all parental concerns on an individual basis. We are excited to celebrate the rich content of Black History Month at our school.”
In an earlier post the Standard-Examiner discovered Friday, Hirokawa said although it “deeply saddens and disappoints” him, he “reluctantly” sent a letter to the school community “explaining that families are allowed to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school … 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. The administrator went on to explain to the Standard-Examiner that the school, with a student population that is less than 1% Black, would be incorporating Black history into its regular social studies lessons for February.
Hirokawa told the newspaper that as “someone whose great-grandparents were sent to a Japanese internment camp” he sees “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.”
His personal feelings, however, didn’t absolve him of blame with social media users and some parents at the school in North Ogden, which is about 50 miles north of Salt Lake City. “I was appalled to see the form sent out that allows parents to opt their kids out of this and to hear that this is all because some parents have requested it,” parent Rebecca Bennett wrote to the Standard-Examiner. “I echo others who are disappointed to hear this was even ever made an issue in the first place by some families in our school’s community.”
Alison Miller, a former Montessori educator, called Hirokawa’s message “disappointing and dangerous … This post reads as a celebration of your own humanity — but all I see is that you are ensuring others have the right to continue to willfully refuse to recognize the humanity of, and to perpetuate harm against, Black people,” Miller wrote.
Lars Johnson, an assistant professor at Wayne State University, tweeted on Saturday: “I would like to opt my children out of the effects of structural oppression and systemic racism.” Deen Freelon, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tweeted on Saturday: “Cool, cool. So can my kids opt out of white history?”
Jemele Hill, the former ESPN host targeted when she tweeted that President Donald Trump is a “white supremacist,” weighed in on the school’s decision on Saturday. “You could argue that on a lot of levels our education system has been opting out of teaching black history for some time,” she tweeted. “I am no longer surprised by the depths this nation will go to erase black people.”
RELATED: Republicans in three states are trying to ban the 1619 Project from schools