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Anoka-Hennepin School District Replaces Policy Linked to Spate of Gay Teen Suicides

The Anoka Hennepin School District, which lashed out last week over a Rolling Stone article that profiled the spate of suicides in the school district and the school's policy which forces teachers to remain neutral on the subject of homosexuality, has voted to replace its old policy with one intended to provide a "respectful" environment for all students. Anoka-Hennepin is the subject of a federal investigation and a lawsuit from The Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Faegre Baker Daniels LLP on behalf of five former students. There have been seven student suicides in the school district in less than two years.

AnokaThe AP reports:

The new policy commits the north suburban Twin Cities district to providing “a safe and respectful learning environment for all students.” It says that when contentious political, religious, social matters or economic issues come up — it does not specifically cite sexuality issues — teachers shouldn’t try to persuade students to adopt particular viewpoint. It calls for teachers to foster respectful exchanges of views. It also says in such discussions, staff should affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Blaha told the board the new policy could just become buried among all the district’s other policies, or it could become “the first few paragraphs of a new chapter ... in which everybody feels safe and welcome at school. A chapter where it is clear that every student, staff member and family is valued for who they are. And a chapter full of rigorous conversations between professionals about how to improve our school climate.”

Anti-gay parents spoke out against the new policy: “If you pass a policy with weak language of appeasement, the gay agenda will be given an even greater foothold in our school district. Said Barb Anderson: "We are at a crossroads. You either cave in the demands of the homosexual activists, an action that will make our schools unsafe for all kids, or you stand firm and protect the children.”

SplcThe Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement regarding the changes:

“Today is the first day in nearly 18 years that Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District no longer has a harmful policy that singles out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Although we would have preferred for the District to have repealed this stigmatizing policy without replacing it, we are pleased that the new policy expressly requires district staff to affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, including LGBT students. The repeal of this policy is an important first step, but the District must do much more to create a safe, welcoming, and respectful learning environment for all students, including LGBT and gender non-conforming students, and those perceived as such. We are unable to comment further due to ongoing mediation in the pending litigation."

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Comments

  1. That "respectful exchange of views" policy is downright ridiculous. If one kid says blacks are inferior and shouldn't be allowed to date whites, is the teacher expected to be neutral and give that viewpoint equal time in the class room?

    Ignorant policy.

    It's the result of kowtowing to a loud minority of bigoted parents who attempt to control school boards. As long as you have backwards-thinking parents who denigrate equality for gays as a "homosexual agenda," you'll have prejudiced kids coming to school convinced that gays are their enemies -- and treat them as such, whenever opportunity presents itself.

    They act on their belief that children need to be protected from gays; they're failing to recognize that some of the children ARE gay.

    I believe that school district desperately needs to send a strong message to parents that any hostility towards kids who identify as gay, even if only language of intolerance, will be treated as bullying and lead to disciplinary action up to expulsion for repeat offenders.

    Unfortunately I get the feeling that there is rampant bigotry amongst the school board's membership.

    Posted by: sparks | Feb 14, 2012 8:15:14 AM


  2. this is a step in the right direction.

    unfortunately, the christians aren't happy because it doesn't promote hate.

    Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC | Feb 14, 2012 8:35:22 AM


  3. The New Draft.
    "It is not the District’s role to take positions on these issues. ...shall not attempt in the course of their professional duties to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint with respect to these issues."
    "..allow respectful exchange of varying points of view."

    So they're now allowed to openly debate the validity of the gay kids life and future life so long as he or she is treated with "self worth" and "dignity". This isn't going to help any.

    It's all a ploy at this point to broadcast the idea that marginalizing gay people is still a valid thing to be involved in. A kind of hysterical remnant of a tepid sour temperament I remember existing somewhat here in MN in 1991.

    Posted by: Steven | Feb 14, 2012 9:06:27 AM


  4. It is welcome and about time that someone stood up to these vicious ignorant Christians who have caused so much trouble.

    Posted by: Tony S. | Feb 14, 2012 9:11:36 AM


  5. Correction: Barb Anderson is not a parent. She's employed by the Minnesota Family Council, and and individual largely responsible for the bad policy in the first place.

    Posted by: Nate | Feb 14, 2012 10:10:31 AM


  6. While this is an improvement, some of the language about "not persuading students to take a particular view" is wushu-washy. I know teachers who tell me of, for example, an immigrant student standing up and making his English speech about why another ethnic group (which includes another member of the class) deserves to be dead.
    For the teacher to create an atmosphere where all students are welcome and safe and peace on earth is a good thing is a particular "viewpoint.". But it's a viewpoint that should be encouraged. The healthy future of society and of all students in that class depends on the class' acceptance that kindness and respect for classmates (and by extension, everyone else out there) is what works to make things better.

    You can't accept and respect all viewpoints, including those that belittle some of your students, and simultaneously keep the promise of a respectful environment.

    The Anoka-Henepin school board doesn't seem to grasp that the best and safest schools take a pro-active role in fostering a safe and respectful environment instead of just promising to react each time AFTER damage is done to someone.

    In my city, I don't think a school exists, right from kindergarten on up, that doesn't have posters prominently displayed letting students and parents of all races and all sexual orientations and sexes know that they are welcome and valued. The posters say things like "All families ore welcome," "Erase racism," "Homophobia is as hateful as racism," etc.

    The posters help to visually set the tone that the school staff is an ally for the safety of everyone, but of course that's just a start. Good teachers also stop kids in their tracks when they hear slurs, and they address the words and why they're hurtful and not to be used in the classroom.

    Without any pro-active steps, the Anoka-Henepin school board seems to be just inserting rhetoric into its handbook in order to avoid losing a lawsuit about all the kids who have died there.

    Posted by: Gregv | Feb 14, 2012 10:56:53 AM


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