Anoka-Hennepin Proposes Changing Neutrality Policy

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota’s largest school district is considering changes to its neutrality policy on sexual orientation, a stance that critics contend has left gay and lesbian students without protection.

The Anoka-Hennepin School Board is scheduled to hear a proposal Monday to delete the policy, which says such matters are best discussed at home. It would be replaced with one saying teachers and staff will not advocate personal beliefs on controversial topics.

Some current and former students are suing the district over its policy requiring staff to remain neutral when sexual orientation is discussed. The plaintiffs claim that prevents teachers from protecting gay students. The neutrality policy came under criticism after six students committed suicide in the district in less than two years.

District spokesman Brett Johnson said Wednesday the proposed change is meant to give teachers more clarification and is not in response to the lawsuit.

Johnson said the proposal is broader than current policy. A policy on keeping neutral on religious matters also would be eliminated and covered by the new policy.

“This is saying, don’t bring your personal beliefs into it (controversial topics),” Johnson told The Associated Press. “It’s not saying you can’t talk about them.”

Julie Blaha, president of the Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota chapter that represents about 2,800 teachers in the district, said she welcomed the potential change.

“I’m glad to see we’re looking at changes. I think that’s a wise choice,” said Blaha, who first saw the proposal Wednesday evening.

Blaha said the current policy was causing confusion for teachers.

“If you ask five different teachers what the policy means, you get five different answers,” she said.

Tammy Aaberg of Champlin, whose 15-year-old son Justin killed himself last year after enduring anti-gay bullying, said at first glance the proposed change “sounds worse than neutral.”

“That wording makes it sound even more demeaning, I guess, being that you’re controversial,” said Aaberg, who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Who you are, who you are born to be — why should that be controversial?”

Aaberg has co-founded Justin’s Gift, a support group for LGBT students in the suburban district. Jefferson Fietek, a drama teacher at Anoka Middle School for the Arts and vice president of Justin’s Gift, said he’s concerned the new policy is too vague.

“And so what exactly is controversial and who decides what is controversial? Something that may be controversial to one person may not be very controversial to another,” Fietek said.

Federal investigators began looking into complaints of harassment and bullying in the northern Twin Cities school district in the fall of 2010.

A parent of one of the students who committed suicide says her son was bullied for being gay. Gay advocacy groups say some of the others students who killed themselves were also bullied.

The district has said its internal investigation found no evidence that bullying contributed to the deaths. But the district, which has 38,500 students, changed its anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in October 2010 to clearly state that harassment or bullying of gay students wouldn’t be tolerated.

The school board also will hear a proposed change in its harassment policy Monday night, but that only puts the protected classes into the language of the policy, Johnson said. He said the board is expected to vote on the proposed changes in January.

Johnson said mediation aimed at resolving the lawsuit and federal investigation is ongoing.

Statement: Anoka-Hennepin School Board to consider Controversial Topics Curriculum Policy

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Fred F.

    Glad to see that the Anoka-Hennepin School Board is finally coming to its senses. Too bad it took a lawsuit to make them see the light.

    • joe

      Are you a pitcher or catcher?

      • jackactionhero

        Are you seriously trying to accuse the guy of being gay because of his opinion? And that’s your way of insulting him?

        What is wrong with you?

        Is being gay wrong, Joe? If it is, shouldn’t you be doing something to stop them? Don’t be a hypocrite now.

        • scott

          With a name like jackactionhero, I know your a pitcher.

          • Rudolf Steiner

            He learned it in the joint.

  • Jill

    This is sick.

    Political correctness at it’s worst.

    • bobby

      Thank you for saying that Jill….So a policy of teacher nuetrality is being changed specifically for gays? So every teacher now has to put aside their feelings and be pro-gay? This is ridiculous.
      If bullying is the issue, teachers should step in when they see something wrong happening. If a teacher witnesses someone being bullied, they have to stop it. It should not matter if that kid is straight, gay, bi, nuetral etc. Stop the bullying. But having special rules for gays is just dumb. Why does the policy have to state that bullying of gays won’t be tolerated? why not just say that bullying won’t be tolerated. PC BS

      • jackactionhero

        Nobody has to be “pro gay” as a teacher in the school. There are no special rules for gays either.

        You didn’t do a good job reading or comprehending the article.

        • Brian

          Obviously, the expectation here IS that teachers and administrators are pro-GLBT. The lawsuit the district is now embroiled in is a RESULT of the neutrality policy. In other words, neutrality isn’t good enough for the GLBT community and if you’re not with them, you’re against them. It’s sad the GLBT community feels this way. Maybe I should file a lawsuit against my kids’ district because they’re neutral on the issue of religion. Because the school has no stance on Catholicism, I’m going to file suit because it’s not in line with what I believe.

          • jackactionhero

            Another nonsensical argument.

            Is being gay wrong, Brian?

            A simple yes or no would do for an answer.

            • Roberto

              There is no god, get a clue fairytale man

            • get real

              Wait. I’m confused. It’s wrong for someone to be born with specific natural tendencies, but it’s not wrong for people to believe in some fictional being who supposedly created all these persons with the same natural tendencies?

              Can you please explain how that works?

              Not bringing my personal opinions into the worksplace is not pro- anything other than PROfessional. I don’t want to hear teachers talking about how Christians are right and others are wrong, how Males are better than Females, how white collar is more responsible than blue collar.

              Teach my kids to investigate all sides and form their own opinions.

      • Mark

        The problem is that the rules were originally setup to make it so that teachers could not say anything ONLY in the case the bullying was about being gay. How is it PC to want teacher to not be prohibited from specifically addressing one issue. Why single out this ONE topic specifically. Teachers can say stop bullying this kid just because he’s smaller, gets better grades, or is another race. Teachers can say you have no right to treat a person like that just because they are different, but on this one issue they’ve been told not to even acknowledge why the kid is being bullied. This is wrong and only serves to protect the bully from having to acknowledge they are wrong.

    • jackactionhero

      What exactly is sick, Jill?

      Please be specific.

  • kazperz

    Maybe if parents started acting like parents at home and teach kids the right way to do things( yes i know many parents do a great job) we wouldnt have to worry about how a school handles it

    • jackactionhero

      There is a lot more to it than that, although I agree that is a part of it.

    • Greg

      I agree. Many parents (though I don’t think most parents) do a good job. The problems in school are a direct result of sub-standard parenting.

  • See BS

    Public Schools are State sponsored religious institutions for liberals.

    Multi-Culturalism is a brand of liberal bible banging.

    • J

      Yea and my tax dollars go to these pop up christian churches in school gyms promoting the bible punching agenda. Religion is total BS. and has no place in government and school.

      • See BS

        Public Schools are bullying children with liberal religion, public schools and taxpayers to respect their establishment of Liberal Religion.

        Churches don’t send a Union thug to your house if you refuse to send your child to a church.

      • Dale Gribble

        America is a country founded by and for White Christians, like the Founding Fathers. If you don’t like it, you can get out.

        • Citizen

          @Dale. No, America was not founded by white Europeans. White Europeans landed on the shores of the Americas where indigenous people already lived, and then promptly displaced those people from their lands. So, every “white” Christian European in America is an immigrant. Did you not pay attention during your elementary school history lessons?

          • Dale Gribble

            We beat them fair and square. Their land once, our land now. The way God intended.

        • J

          The founding fathers were racist rednecks who had a hand full of good ideas. why do Christians feel the right to say this is their country? I thought America was a melting pot were all people could live free and pursue their dreams. but only if i believe in your funny little book right.

          • Dale Gribble

            You thought wrong, socialist crybaby. Of course, its understandable, given the level of treasonous indoctrination you were force-fed in the DFL controlled public education/indoctrination system.

        • get real

          Freedom of religion does NOT mean I have to follow yours.

          • Dale Gribble

            No one can force you not to be a traitor, it’s true.

    • jackactionhero

      Which tax dollars?

      • Dale Gribble

        The property tax dollars which go to pay for the schools. I own property and I pay taxes. I am disgusted that my tax dollars go to promote this un-Christian agenda.

        • get real

          So you think MY taxes should pay for your pro-christian agenda? Why? Specifically…

          • Citizen

            @Dale. This nation is supposed to White and Christian? Tell that to the Native Americans who were the indigenous people and who were displaced by the immigrants from Europe.

            • They lost

              Indians should have fought harder – sucks to be them

            • Dale Gribble

              This nation, not their nation. They lost.

  • Oliver Douglas

    I was brought up to believe that bullying, not the reason for it is wrong. If they are bullying someone for something you believe is wrong, you need to put a stop to it. It’s about protecting the person. Human life is something worth valuing, whether you are on one or the other

    • Oliver Douglas

      *one one side or the other*

  • scott

    Nicely stated. I’m a teacher and could not agree more. I do very little teaching anymore. It’s all dealing with issues like this. Now wonder the kids these days are so stupid.

    • jackactionhero

      After reading your comment, I don’t wonder anymore either.

  • Greg Laden

    I’m astonished at a) the level of hate and intolerance in these comments and b) the fact that the CBS managers of this site tolerate it. Has similar comments been made of a racial nature they would be deleted.

    But apparently gay bashing is just fine, alive, and well in the Twin Cities. Shame.

    • Just wondering

      Um, Greg, do you actually READ these boards on a regular basis?

  • Greg Laden

    Just … yes, I do. And the racist stuff is fairly often deleted. Eventually.

  • John

    Well said!

  • Straight Arrow

    The Anoka-Hennepin School Board is a bunch of cowards, giving into the bullies.

  • Callina

    Please stop now, Dale. I’m a Christian, and will be no matter how many people tell me I believe a fairy tale. But the idea that this nation is supposed to be white and Christian leaves me cold!

    Christianity doesn’t leave out any races and the Constitution doesn’t leave out any citizens.

    Christianity is a matter of the heart, not a curriculum or a test of citizenship. If Christian kids can’t keep their faith in schools, how will they manage in the real world? Remember, Christian kids get bullied, too. We’ve got to work with the system we have.

    Please, think before you type. You’ve embarrassed the Christians and annoyed the atheists, and I don’t believe you’ve convinced anyone with your arguments.

    • Dale Gribble

      Silence, woman, and submit. You are forbidden to preach. I rebuke you.

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