ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — The largest school district in Minnesota is thinking about changing the way the district deals with issues surrounding bullying. The Anoka-Hennepin School board will consider rewriting its policies on religion and sexual orientation.

The district faces two lawsuits over its current policy that suggests teachers take a neutral stance on topics related to gay, lesbian or transgender issues.

The district’s current policy on “sexual-orientation” has come under fire. Seven students have committed suicide, and at least one was gay. Brett Johnson, a spokesperson for the school district, said it reviewed the information it had about the students who committed suicide and did not find any evidence that they were bullied or harassed prior to their deaths.

Under the current policy, teachers are directed to remain “neutral on matters of sexual orientation” and not discuss their beliefs or opinions. The district’s policy goes on to say “such matters are best addressed outside school.”

“The change is being looked at primarily because teachers felt that the old policy was confusing,” said Mary Olson, Anoka-Hennepin District Communications Director.

The school-board will consider broadening the policy on sexual orientation. The religion policy would change, too.

At the hearing Monday night, the board provided speakers with a couple minutes of public testimony. Seventeen speakers expressed a wide range of opinions, including some asking to keep the current policy and some asking to eliminate the current policy, but not adopt the proposed policy.

Addition comments can also be sent to the board.

Under the proposed policy, both topics would fall under a new “controversial topics curriculum” meant to allow students to form their own opinions on the issues. Teachers “shall not advocate their own beliefs or opinions” on the topics.

“It’s so frustrating and confusing, I think it could be very damaging,” said Tammy Aaberg, who’s son, Justin, committed suicide after being bullied for being gay.

She doesn’t believe the proposed change would be “better.”

“He had been bullied and harassed at school due to his sexual orientation,” Aaberg said a few weeks ago during a press conference with Gov. Mark Dayton.

She supported Dayton’s idea to form an “anti-bullying” task force. But she can’t support the idea of labeling “gay-lesbian-bi-transgender” students as “controversial.”

“I think the board needs to add in that they recognize, validate and support all students for who they are as a person,” Aaberg said.

Aaberg also voiced her opinion before the school board. She said she knows it’s too late to save her son, but it’s not too late to save other children from being bullied.

The board will likely vote on the proposal next month.

Comments (29)
  1. lauren says:

    I find it interesting that parents blame the school district for their own shortcomings.

    1. Tom says:

      @ Lauren

      That is very true1 Kids are at school to LEARN! And if you have parents who are telling their kids it is ok to make fun of people or judge others if they don’t live their “LIVES” like they do! That it is ok to pick on people they don’t view as “normal”. Someone should tell these parents there is no such thing as normal!

    2. Dale Gribble says:

      Had they been involved as parents, their children would not have become perverts and would still be alive.

      1. Tom says:

        @ Dale Gibble

        And what is wrong with a kid being a pervert? Everybody is peverted in their own way!!

      2. It's simple says:

        You’re disgusting.

  2. Chris says:

    I wasn’t aware that allowing bullying in schools was the parent of the bullied student’s shortcoming.

      1. man on fire says:

        They’re not “allowing” it. Get a clue you drama king or queen or kueen… They’re not allowed to inject their personal stance on mass media social issues that relate to who these kids think they want to mate with or put faith in. This might be one of the first things the schools have ever gotten right. Now if they could only take this one level higher to colleges and universities…

        1. Citizen says:

          Ah, man, you see in today’s religious right rhetoric, tolerance of other ideas is translated into meaning “condoning” those ideas. You cannot win with intolerant bigots or, it appears, the Anoka-Hennepin school board.

  3. B in MPLS says:

    What’s sad is that kids are bullying other kids because of prejudices put in their heads by the ignorant comments said by their parents. Many of them probably don’t realize how hurtful their words are. After all, these kids don’t learn this stuff out of thin air… it is planted there by someone (enter the parents).

    The people who should be prosecuted and jailed are the PARENTS OF THE BULLIES. I bet the bullying would end real fast if there were consequences for these hate-filled parents’ words and actions.

    “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

    1. Man on Fire says:

      Wrong. Cant single out the parents B. And quit judging people and quoting the bible in the same breath. You’re embarrassing people who actually live and practice the “word” you hypocritical loony, and likely LIAR.

      1. Mike says:

        Man on Fire? Hardly. More like parent of bully. Drama king, queen, kueen? You have it down to a tee buddy………..

      2. Dale Gribble says:

        The parents of the “bullies” should get medals and their children should be praised. They are helping to stamp out perversion.

        1. It's simple says:

          Wow! He without sin, cast the first stone. I am a Christian myself, but I am ashamed of how UN-Christ-like other so called Christians can be! Jesus would never condone such violence. Why should He forgive or not judge you if you cannot extend the same mercy to others? Just digusting.

  4. See BS says:

    Public Schools are not law enforcement agencies, or the legislative branch.

  5. james2 says:

    What’s interesting is how the adults bully other adutls through constitutional amendments, and laws, etc. How do you think it will stop on a juvenile level with the adults doing the same thing?

    Like it or not, same gender orientation is not going away. As for the kids, it will get better. You can always move far away from home when you are finally of age to a place where you can have a life of your own.

  6. Tom says:

    Teachers saying they were confused about the policy is a very excuse. They knew what the policy was they just didn’t want to follow based on THEIR religious beliefs. And since this is a PUBLIC school issue once they enter those school doors those beliefs stay outside the doors!

    If they would have dealt with this problem in the right way instead of blowing it off they wouldn’t find themselves in this mess.

    If you have teachers and or students who have a problem because of anothers students sexual orientation, it is NOT the problem of the student who is gay who has the problem, it is problem of the teacher or the student who has problem it.

    1. Black & White Rainbow says:

      Tom, you’re a gramatical moron. But from what I can gather, you feel the teachers are the root of the problem here. How? This policy handcuffs teachers and disables action. If they come out in favor of the GLBT kids, they’re accused of favoritism. If they act in a manner the GLBT community finds threatening, they’re accused of being unfair. There is NOTHING wrong with neutrality. And beliefs SHOULD stay outside the doors of a public school…EVERYONE’s beliefs. Johnny and Janey shouldn’t be allowed to wear their “gay pride” shirt if Billy can’t wear his “heil Hitler” shirt. Maybe it IS the problem of the GLBT student. Guess what…not everyone HAS to believe GLBT is right, good, or correct.

      1. Citizen says:

        But, Black, everyone should be tolerant. Remember that word–tolerant? It’s one of the most beautiful words in the language. A policy of neutrality has only worked for Switzerland in the real world, and they accept financial accounts from everyone–even terrorists. In reality, when it comes to anything else, neutrality does not work. See Kate’s comment below. Because you comfort someone, or step in to stop bullying does not mean you condone any so-called controversial topic. It just means you are trying to stop a greater harm… Get a grip!

      2. Kate Roeger says:

        schools are a place for education……education comes in all forms, not just what is written in a book……schools need to be teaching appropriate behavior for their institution so students can use those tools once they reach college and are put into a larger world than just their suburbia neighborhoods……its the responsibility of EVERYONE in a COMMUNITY to teach the next generations.

      3. Tom says:

        @ Black and White Rainbow

        When a student enters a school building it is up to those school officials to make sure that EVERY student is in a safe learning enviroment. But in this case they dropped the ball. They were allowing students who were percieved by other students to be gay whether if it was true or not to be “bullied”.

        lets say the situation was reversed and the students who were being percieved as “social conservatives” were being “bullied” by other students and being called “nutjobs”, etc, I have no doubt that school officials would have acted very differently than they did in this case.

        It is just not school officiala who are to blame for this and it also falls on the parents. If you have parents who teach their kids it is alright to “bully”, “discriminate” againest students who they feel are not “normal” in their eyes that is on the parents. Well these parents should be told there is no such thing as “normal”. And I am sure that if these parents found out from their child that they were being “nutjobs” because of thier beliefs that would have demanded actions be taken on those students or even a teacher if that happened.

        If a gay student wants to wear a gay pride shirt then they should be able to. If a student wants to wear a hitler shrt, etc, then they should be able to.

        If a parent of a student doesn’t want their child to surrounded by students who they percieve not to be “normal”, (even though there is no such thing) then maybe they should open up the wallet and put their kids in a controlled setting called a private cathoilic school.

        1. Uncle Rico says:

          Tom you need to focus- “If a gay student wants to wear a gay pride shirt then they should be able to. If a student wants to wear a hitler shrt, etc, then they should be able to. ”

          Wrong- you are injected chaos into a typically stable environment.

          “If a parent of a student doesn’t want their child to surrounded by students who they percieve not to be “normal”, (even though there is no such thing) then maybe they should open up the wallet and put their kids in a controlled setting called a private cathoilic school.”

          Wrong again. You can just as easily say it should work the other way.

          Thanks for playing. Try again.

  7. Kevin says:

    Once again the few rule the majority! No morales! If you think this will change anything….your insane….liberal bs education system rolling on on purpose to push their liberal bs agenda…..this is sick! Churches should be up in arms….

    1. Citizen says:

      Kevin, like during the Spanish Inquisition? The crusades? The witch hunts at Salem? Good times, those!

    2. jackactionhero says:

      I think you should have said…

      Churches should be up in flames.

  8. Citizen says:

    Judging from all the supremely bigoted comments from the religious right against gays and gay marriage, my inference is that the parents of the bullies must belong to the GOP and vent their bigoted attitudes at home. The speech being sought to suppress is that of lifestyle choice. It is no wonder these students took their own lives. How about this, Anoka-Hennepin, restore free speech to the school district and watch what happens. How’s that for a novel idea! My sympathies to the staff and students who must endure the stupidity of this policy and the elected school board officials.

  9. Kate Roeger says:

    why cant it just be that if someone is being bullied… adult who is witness to it…..step up and say STOP!!!!! Its simply protecting a child from abuse! Just because someone puts a stop to the abuse does not mean that they condone the personal choices of an individual!!!! We need to teach and show proper behavior in social settings……why is my child recieving this lesson in preschool but we cant do this with teeanagers?

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